Budget-cut package evolved through three stages

The Jefferson City Council is expected to take action Monday on a proposed list of budget cuts to address a $1.68 million shortfall in the current fiscal year.

But what will be voted on Monday has evolved through weeks of discussions and revisions. While the majority of cuts are the same, some have been increased or decreased, eliminated from or added to the list of original cuts that City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus distributed to the mayor and City Council last month.

The budget shortfall was revealed Feb. 25 in a City Council work session. But the original draft of budget cuts was distributed to the mayor and council in an e-mail from Nickolaus on Feb. 22.

“I want each of you to know that I have based these cuts purely on the professional judgment of my directors and on my own view of the short- and long-term needs of the city,” Nickolaus wrote in the e-mail. “I have not consulted the mayor or any of the council members in preparing this list as it is my intent to present a list which is purely based on professional judgment and not on politics in any way. I am of course not ignorant of the fact that politics, or at least policy, enters into this sort of situation and it is something that the council must consider. I have told my staff to make the cuts that they think are appropriate and not to worry about what the council may or may not agree to. There are therefore no sacred cows in this proposal.”

There are only a handful of real changes from Nickolaus’ original draft to what will be voted on Monday night. Salute to America, the city’s Fourth of July celebration, is facing a possible $5,000 cut. Originally, it was looking at a full cut of city funding for the event, at a total of $10,000.

There is no proposed two-hour midday break in the transit system, a savings of $55,000, in the original draft. And the early retirement plan originally was estimated to equal $300,000, twice what is documented in the cuts to be voted on.

Nickolaus said a big reason those items were changed is because as more information became available, the cuts needed to be adjusted.

“We’re putting this thing together at a fairly rapid pace, as we start to kind of dig in deeper to the numbers, we begin to get a clearer picture,” Nickolaus said.

With early retirement, for instance, Nickolaus said staff quickly realized the pay-out associated with the program was going to be far more than they originally thought. Because that cost-savings had to be lowered, Nickolaus said they had to find cuts in other areas, leading to additional transit cuts and the proposed twohour midday break.

“You go wherever you can and find whatever cuts you can,” Nickolaus said.

You can access the proposed budget cut files and download them at www.newstribune.com/jcbudgets.

Today's related articles:

Council, staff define what they see as most important city services

City departments outline how they’ll handle cuts

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