Tough Budget Year Anticipated

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Thursday October 24, 2013

After last year’s combined City and School tax increases caused some surprise among residents, councilors are determined not to have the same scenario play out during the coming budget year. In order to give the City Council a heads up as to what might be coming down the pike when budget presentations are made on December 14, Deputy City Manager Tom Hubbard presented preliminary figures at the October 21 meeting. “Once I started evaluating costs and realized we were getting into the increase range, I wanted to come to you with the information now” Hubbard said.

Hubbard outlined the major FY15 expenses which include contractual salary increases, capital improvement plan projects above and beyond FY14 expenses (this includes an increase in the paving budget to $900k, a reduction in bonded debt, and a decrease from the Capital Reserve fund). There is a projected increase in health insurance with CIGNA, but the City is soliciting figures from Blue Cross/Blue Shield and MVP as well. The loss of tax revenue from airport housing based upon buildings currently torn down was factored in as well. The estimate of these total items comes to $708,000. 

Additional considerations include items presented to the Council in advance of budget season including the costs associated with hiring an additional police officer, dedicating funding to a housing trust fund, and the paving increase. 

The Council was in agreement that the numbers were sobering to say the least. “I don’t think the community has the appetite for a 2% increase,” Chair Pam Mackenzie said, “We need to take a long, hard look at everything. This budget is going to have to be about what we need to have not what we want to have.” 

Councilors were anxious to help Hubbard come up with cost savings ideas and go through expenditures line by line, but there are still several unknowns especially where health care costs are concerned and in terms of the school budget since they have yet to settle their contract negotiations.

“This is a tough year,” Pat Nowak said, “People are still going through circumstances of unemployment…we may have to overlook slight necessities. We need to hold the line if at all possible.” 

Hubbard had come to the Council looking for guidance and he received a loud and clear message: Pam Mackenzie said, “Try to aim for 0 additional taxes.” 

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent