Since their unveiling on Tuesday afternoon, The 2016 Park Expense Projections have been met with an enthusiasm not seen in the past few years. Many citizens have praised PFO head Valentina Abeja for presenting a “thoughtful” budget, while others, who may have had unrealistic expectations, have said they’re satisfied, if not outright pleased.
The Mammalian Daily had the opportunity to speak with Abeja after her Tuesday afternoon press conference. Since then, our financial, social, health, weather, and education experts have pored over the figures. We present here a point form scoring, as well as analysis and commentary:
- Overall Score: 7
- Business Support: 7
- Research Support: 7
- Healthcare: 4
- Immigration and Refugee Support: 4
- Safety and Security: 4
- Education: 8
- Quality of Park Life: 8
- Environmental Impact: 10
- Look to the Future: 10
It was a difficult budget to score fairly since, to Abeja’s credit, it took into consideration many important items for which, in the past, expenditures have not been allocated.
The Mammalian Daily gave a score of seven to items such as support for business and for research. This may seem harsh because, heretofore, there has been no budget allocation for either. We are mindful, as well, that funds are limited and we have high praise for Abeja for setting aside any funds at all. Within that framework, then, a score of seven should be seen as an overwhelmingly positive one.
Abeja said on Thursday that scrapping budget funds for tourism was high on her list and that she met with little opposition to the idea. We agree completely with this decision. Those funds have found their way into other areas that will surely benefit Park citizens more than tourism ever can.
We were alarmed at the reduction in funds for healthcare. No longer a big ticket item, Abeja has designated only eight percent of the budget for what is now termed “health and well-being.” This is an eleven percent reduction from the 2014 budget. Abeja explained that some of the healthcare funds have been re-allocated to the areas of research, food production, weather, water, and business support. After extensive consultation with health professionals and with The Park’s food and weather makers, Abeja said she decided that spending now on items that will prevent illness in the future was the best route to take. The wisdom of that decision remains to be seen, but with a constantly growing population, we are somewhat skeptical and, therefore, gave the budget a score of four for healthcare.
We were puzzled, as well, at the two percent reduction in funds for immigrant and refugee support. Abeja pointed out to us that she had doubled the funds for education, which she believed would relieve some of the burden on I and R services. She also claimed that support for Park businesses would help new Park residents support themselves financially. Once again, that remains to be seen, but since some immigration services, such as the Extinction Anxiety Clinic, receive healthcare funding, we are dismayed at the reduction of both. We, therefore, gave the budget a score of four for immigrant and refugee support.
Most notable to some in The Park was the reduction in security funding. While the 2014 budget allocated a full twenty-three percent, Abeja has reduced this to fifteen percent. Many feel she has taken a big chance by making this move. Abeja seems to be counting on her spending in other areas, such as education, arts funding, and special events, to produce peace in The Park. Recent statistics have proven, however, that certain kinds of tensions are escalating and we question whether Stereotype Sundays will be enough to keep them at bay. As well, we believe the reduction will likely over-burden volunteer peacekeepers such as the Doves and Does of Peace. For this reason, we gave the budget a score of four for safety and security.
On its own, the doubling of funds for education seems a wonderful and timely idea. While we gave the budget a score of eight for education, we remain cognizant that some of that funding came from areas that should not have seen their funds shrink. The results of this re-allocation remain to be seen.
Abeja adjusted the figures for arts and sports funding this year, equalizing them at four percent and allocating six percent for special events. We cannot quibble with this and, therefore, gave the budget a score of eight in this area for overall quality of life in The Park.
In terms of environmental impact, this budget works very well. By allocating funds directly to weather, groundskeeping, water, research, and food production, Abeja has managed to use over a third of the budget to ensure The Park’s environmental health and longevity. For this, coupled with the de-funding of tourism, which had a detrimental effect on our environment, we offer high praise and a score of ten.
Finally, whether all the changes that come with the 2016 budget work in the long run, Abeja has made every effort to ensure that this a forward-looking budget and for this reason, we have given it a score of ten in this regard. She has supported research and the environment and looked to secure a future in The Park for our citizens and residents. For this we commend Abeja and her team at the Park Finance Office.