Public hearing for proposed budget
Four public hearings are scheduled for city residents to weigh in on the proposed budget.
-Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the council room in City Hall;
- Oct. 21 before the 7 p.m. City Council meeting in the council room;
- Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the Music Hall in City Hall
- Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in Canfield Casino in Congress Park.
The City Council can amend the budget and vote on it during the month of November.
Two dozen city employees could lose their jobs if a proposed 2009 budget is approved without changes before Nov. 30.
In an effort to keep next year’s tax increase low, Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins has proposed cutting eight full-time jobs and Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco voluntarily axed another 17 part-time workers from his department.
In addition, seven newly created jobs in the city wouldn’t be filled.
The proposed $38.2 million general fund spending plan unveiled Tuesday calls for a 3.8 percent property tax increase, though it is less than what was budgeted last year.
That’s because the city owes more this year toward debt on capital projects, which is calculated in a separate budget but still affects the tax rate.
“We’re bonding ourselves into trouble here,” said John Franck, commissioner of accounts.
Next year’s tax rate would be $5.55 per $1,000 in assessed property value, compared to $5.35 per $1,000 in assessed property value this year. The proposed annual tax for a home assessed at $200,000 would be $1,110.66 That’s $40.66 more than the homeowner pays this year.
City departments had initially sent requests to Ivins that would have resulted in a 29 percent tax increase, and those numbers were pared down over the last several weeks.
Ivins said he had aimed for a 2 percent tax increase.
“It’s a tough year out there,” he said.
The city’s largest two departments, the public safety and public works departments, sustained the heaviest cuts.
Scirocco reminded the council that reducing funds comes with a cost.
“If you don’t have the work force out there, you will have a cut in services,” he said, noting that the part-timers who were cut are the people who clean up after special events and keep Broadway looking nice.
Commissioner of Public Safety Ron Kim noted that cutting a code enforcement officer in the city brings a staff of two down to one.
“These are all, I believe, essential services,” he said.
The departments of public safety and public works are asking the council to add $550,000 to the budget for their departments, which would hike the tax rate another 3.38 percent on top of the proposed 3.8 percent, Ivins said.
The jobs that would be cut in the city include a clerk, executive assistant to the commissioner, senior clerk of water and sewer and a water trainee in the Department of Public Works; an assistant to the commissioner and deputy commissioner in Accounts; an executive assistant to the commissioner and a code enforcer in the Department of Public Safety; and a part-time clerk in the Visitor Center.
All but the public safety and public works executive assistants are union positions, so the employees whose jobs are eliminated might still work in City Hall in a different position if they have seniority over other employees, Ivins said.