Budget proposal continues climate of austerity

The Holloway administration on Tuesday proposed a $59.5 million operating budget that overcomes a $4.6 million gap between revenue and expenses by dipping into the city’s reserve funds and continuing employee furloughs.

The budget, says Director of Administration David Staehling, will see the city begin the year with a $9 million general fund balance and end the year with a $3.22 million fund balance. The budget also includes a $2.1 million capital projects budget, the smallest the city has seen in years, but millions in federally funded streets and drainage work will be underway throughout the city over the next several months.

The budget includes lower water bills – about $60 a year for the average residential customer — and no city property tax increase.
City Council members will spend the next several weeks reviewing and possibly tweaking the spending plan. The mayor and council typically try to have an approved budget no later than mid-September. The council will hold public meetings throughout the month to continue reviewing the budget.

“Mayor Holloway has met with department directors and we’ve cut just about everything there is to cut in the departmental budgets over the past two years,” Staehling said. “We’re proposing to continue the hiring freeze, the policy of attrition, and furloughs, where employees take up to six eight-hour days of unpaid leave, and as unpopular as that furlough policy is with employees, we’re avoiding laying anyone off.

“The budget process is such a challenge because you cut and cut, as we’ve done, but then you reach the point of cutting people,” Staehling said. “Right now, personnel costs make up 70 percent of our budget.”

The next budget meeting, which is open to the public, will be on Tuesday at 9 a.m. at City Hall.