City faces new budget challenges

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Sobering new information from city staff paints an increasingly grim picture of the city budget — which has already absorbed a $2-million loss this year alone.

Interim City Manager Dennis Speer said that with some $348,000 in outstanding obligations that were inadvertently left out of the budget adopted in June, and revenues coming in far below projections, the city is facing a $1.2-million impact to this year’s budget.

All five members of the council agreed that Speer needed to bring back recommendations for cuts in order to keep from draining the already-diminished reserves.

“We can’t kick the can any further down the road, even though that’s not the lesson the federal government is teaching us,” said Vice Mayor Chip Holloway

He added that the city also needs to carefully review the unfunded obligations and determine which of those costs can be cut.

Former Councilmember Jerry Taylor, who has continued from the public side of the dais his campaign to rein in city spending, said that the city is burning $4 every minute it postpones making those cuts. He said that the city will have spent $80,000 it doesn’t have just in the two weeks between last week’s meeting and next week, when the council is expected to hear proposals.

Taylor also noted during the meeting that the money currently in the city’s reserve fund is also a loan from the wastewater fund — and that if the city wants any reserve it will need to make cuts beyond the $1.2 million already identified.

“I’m here to tell you, that $575,000 is not reserve, it needs to go back to the wastewater fund, and you can’t take your sweet time putting it back,” agreed resident Michael Neel.

Mayor Dan Clark said the city needed a buffer, and may need to leave the money in the general fund until the city is past its cash-flow challenges.

Neel and resident Andy Anderson said that given the city’s fiscal crisis, the council needs to consider lowering administrative salaries (many of which are above $100,000 per year.)

Story First Published: 2012-12-12