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City discusses further cuts in budget shortfall

The Jefferson City Council is struggling to deal with an almost $2 million budget shortfall and has yet to approve a plan of cuts proposed by the city administrator last week.

At the City Council meeting Monday, council members discussed further cuts, other options and how they didn’t know about the budget situation sooner.

Last week, it was revealed that the city is running a nearly $2 million shortfall for the current fiscal year and has been overspending in past years. City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus has proposed a series of cuts and measures to deal with the budget situation, including cuts to every department and an early retirement program to help achieve an 8 percent reduction in workforce.

When Nickolaus initially presented the plan last week, he said decisions need to be made quickly, otherwise the figures could change and the city could face deeper cuts.

First Ward Councilman Rick Prather asked why the budget information was not received sooner, specifically during the budget process last fall. Interim Finance Director Bill Betts said he could not speculate as to why the information wasn’t given to the council, but said it was never requested from the information technology department.

In questions to city staff throughout the past week, council members asked about potential effects of large reductions from various city departments as well as city services in an effort to find solutions to the budget shortfall.

A few questions focused on the city’s transit system, which faced deep cuts in the most recent budget process though all funds eventually were restored.

A total elimination of the transit system would save $450,000 in the current fiscal year, with savings in future years estimated at $899,000. To not run bus routes during the slowest periods would save the city about $160,000, though staff still is researching that.

Other questions involved what the effect would be of furloughing all city employees for one week and increasing administrative costs to the Parks and Recreation Commission.

The council plans to continue discussing the budget shortfall at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

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