By Elizabeth Ross, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
OVER half of United States cities and towns are projecting budget shortfalls by the end of fiscal year 1992, according to the National League of Cities (NLC) in Washington.
The NLC study, conducted in April, is the organization's latest report of fiscal conditions in cities across the United States.
In the study, 54 percent of the cities and towns projected annual expenditures exceeding revenues for 1992. For 1991, 52 percent of cities reported shortfalls, marking it the first year a majority of cities reported shortfalls in the NLC's annual survey since 1984.
The survey sample of 620 cities and towns was chosen to be representative for all cities in the United States.
Since most cities are constitutionally required to maintain balanced budgets, many have been forced to dig deeper into their reserves, says NLC spokesman Randy Arndt.
"They have had to manage these problems," Mr. Arndt says.
"Cities cannot go bankrupt, shut down, or disappear the way private businesses can when times turn tough."
As a result, cities have enacted a variety of cutbacks and revenue-raising initiatives. According to the study, 3 out of every 4 cities increased taxes or user fees.
Some cutbacks include shutting down city hall satellite offices, closing a hospital, or scaling back fire, library, and garbage services, according to the survey.
Some cities have been forced to take more drastic measures. Cities cut services
Last week, Detroit announced a 10 percent across-the-board salary cut for nonunion city employees. And a year ago, Bridgeport, Conn., filed a bankruptcy action.
Other cities, like Boston, are managing with fewer services. The city's municipal employees have had no pay raises in two to three years, says City Councilor Tom Menino.
In addition, the city's police force will lose 120 officers next year while summer youth programs also have been cut, he says.
Mr. Menino says Washington policymakers ignore cities. …