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New city manager looks to payroll cuts to balance budget

By Staff | Sep 4, 2010

City Manager Gary King wants to save reserves and instead reduce payroll costs to balance the FY 2011 budget.
Those proposed payroll cuts include reducing the police department budget by $2 million, and the fire department budget by $1.6 million, but does not include elimination of positions.
Gary King declined comment on his new budget proposal, and Budget Administrator Sheena Milken was unavailable Friday.
Milken did write in the Sept. 2 memo from King to council that “it is my understanding that these savings are to be achieved without eliminating personnel or reducing service levels, I believe that it is necessary to recognize that this level of savings may not be achievable and that some use of the cash balances might be necessary during FY 2011.”
That would require a budget amendment.
Mayor John Sullivan, who has been strongly opposed to the use of reserve funds to balance the budget, said he hadn’t dug too deeply into the numbers as of Friday evening.
He said he assumes King’s budget proposal does not include eliminating positions, but did not have enough information to confirm that no jobs will be slashed.
“I have not gotten down deep enough into these numbers. I’d like to see more detail,” Sullivan said. “Wherever the money is coming down, I want to see how he did it – especially for police and fire.”
Sullivan added that he would like to see the reserves go toward funding OPEB.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail said King’s proposal will likely cause “lively” debate on Tuesday when council meets for its first budget hearing.
McGrail said the budget is already balanced through work done by former City Manager Carl Schwing and staff.
“Those reserves are there for a reason,” McGrail said. “If we tell them (employees) they need to take pay cuts … we’ll have a heck of time gaining their support if we pull the rug out from under them.”
Councilmember Pete Brandt, previously supported using reserves to balance the budget, but said he was happy that King is presenting alternatives.
“I’m kind of pleased this is coming down. On the other hand, I believe the way we did it was OK. The reserves were built up for the express purpose of helping us through this rough year,” Brandt said.
Councilmember Bill Deile said King has presented an option that delivers exactly what council wanted: keep positions and services levels, but reduce the cost of providing those things.
He said King’s proposal also includes knocking another 8 percent off water and sewer rates.
Councilmember Marty McClain expects King’s proposal to set the budget hearing “on edge.”
With just over three weeks left for council to address the budget, he said there’s little time for department heads to look at squeezing more money from their departments.
“We have a balanced budget, and now we’re going to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “There was a commitment not to eliminate people or positions, not to lay anybody off. All that’s left is pay cuts, and I’ll never support that.”
City Manager Gary King is also suggesting funding an accounting assistant position in Financial Services for $53,172 to address workload issues as well as funding a contract position in the City Clerk’s office for the purpose of scanning permits and plans into records at the price tag of $8,636.
City Council meets Tuesday, September 7, 5:05 pm, in City Council chambers.