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City Council members propose $2.2 million in budget cuts

Saturday, October 13, 2012 - 6:51 am

Spending cuts proposed by City Council members would reduce Mayor Tom Henry's 2013 budget by about $2.2 million, trimming several staff positions and even one whole department.

In all, council members submitted nearly 30 individual cuts – although some of the ideas overlapped – according to information provided by city Clerk Sandra Kennedy's office.

Henry's budget calls for a tax increase of about 6 percent on most property owners to close a $6 million deficit in the spending plan. Even if council approves all the spending cuts, the city would need to either raise taxes by at least 3 percent or use money from its cash reserves to balance the budget.

As expected, Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, requested that the city's overall property tax collections for 2013 be lowered by about $6 million from $112.2 million to just over $106 million. He and other Republicans have suggested using some of the cash reserves or $75 million "Legacy" fund -- created from the lease and sale of the old City Light utility -- to fill the budget gap without raising taxes.

The 28 proposed cuts range from small items – such as $500 from council's public relations budget – to large, such as a proposal by Councilman Marty Bender, R-at large, to eliminate the city's whole internal audit department and its $272,971 budget.

Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, proposed a $300,000 cut to the maintenance program for the Citizens Square building, along with the city's $500,000 share of a new city-county 911 phone system, which he said would likely be paid for with other funds.

Several Republican members targeted the mayor's office's budget for a $50,000 cut that would eliminate a community liaison job. Jehl also suggested not replacing two retiring employees – one in the city clerk's office and one in property management.

Councilmen Mitch Harper, R-4th, and Geoff Paddock, D-5th, each proposed canceling a 2 percent raise for elected officials, which would affect council, the mayor and the city clerk. Most city employees are scheduled to get the raise next year.

On Tuesday, council is expected to discuss the cuts and take an initial vote on Henry's $174 million spending plan -- $140 million of which is supported by property taxes. The budget is scheduled for final passage Oct. 23.