City departments outline how they’ll handle cuts
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Every department in Jefferson City Hall is looking at cuts of some kind to help manage a $1.68 million budget shortfall, but some departments have been hit harder than others.
Within public works, the streets division has more than $478,000 in proposed cuts, though $142,900 is proposed to be put into street lighting to cover the electricity costs.
The two largest proposed cuts in the streets division are street chemicals, which is being cut by $200,000, and street materials, which is being cut by $210,000. Britt Smith, operations division director, said the street chemicals largely pertain to snow removal and the cut simply means they will not restock the department’s supplies in this fiscal year. So far, Smith said, the city has used about 50 percent of the street chemicals they have in stock.
“We’re fine with that number,” Smith said. “Public safety is in no way in danger.”
The cut to street materials, Smith said, will cause the department to shift its focus from material-intensive projects to more labor-intensive projects. Complete resurfacing of roads won’t be able to happen through general revenue funds, Smith said, and the department will focus on those projects that don’t require as much material, such as inlet repair and crack sealing.
“Of course, we want as limited effect on the public as possible,” Smith said. “We just kind of shifted our focus.”
The division also has a $43,000 cut to seasonal employees as well as a $15,000 cut to street signs and marking. Smith said that means no curb painting will be done this year, and there likely will be less cutting of brush and creeks, as well as mowing, since those programs used the seasonal employees.
As for the addition of more than $140,000 into street lighting, Smith said that program had traditionally been under-funded and the money was needed to pay the electric bills for street lights. But the department will see if there’s any possible cost-savings, he said.
“We’re going through, and we’re looking at every possible street light,” Smith said. “If it’s not needed, we may be turning it off.”
Also within public works, the transit system is proposed to be cut by $138,500 through cuts to fuel, vehicle repairs and a possible two-hour midday break. That two-hour break would have buses stop running routes midday, which also would stop Handiwheels from running for those two hours, as that service is complimentary to the JeffTran system.
But even if the City Council approves the transit cuts, Public Works Director Roger Schwartze said federal regulations will require the city to hold public hearings on the proposed schedule change before anything can be implemented. Schwartze said whatever comes out of the public hearings will be taken back to the council.
City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus said it’s possible that the $55,000 from the proposed midday break may have to come from elsewhere in the transit system. Schwartze said where those funds would come from have yet to be identified.
Another $52,000 in savings is proposed to come from personnel shifts within public works. Schwartze said Smith’s salary partially comes out of the parking enterprise fund and, as part of the shift, about $15,000 more will come from the enterprise fund rather than general revenue. The rest of the savings will be from the wastewater enterprise fund, which will be charged for work done by the engineering department on wastewater projects, Schwartze said.
The Police Department has about $121,000 in proposed cuts, mostly from overtime. On Friday, Capt. Doug Shoemaker said since the cuts are not finalized, he is unsure of how they will affect them “and predicting any impact may be premature and inaccurate on our part.”
But, in previous City Council meetings, Police Chief Roger Schroeder said the overtime cuts will be managed by using compensatory time instead.
“Of course, our primary purpose is community safety,” Schroeder said at a special City Council meeting Monday.
The Fire Department has $51,660 in proposed cuts, the largest of which comes from overtime. Interim Fire Chief Jason Turner said the proposed cuts are manageable through hard work and cooperation within the department. The $20,000 proposed cut to overtime is manageable, he said, and staff is working on plans to adjust to the cuts without affecting the quality of service provided.
“Our number one priority is, of course, providing the best service that we can to the community,” Turner said. “We’ll have to work harder internally.”
The department is looking at a proposed $10,000 cut to training and education, which Turner said won’t affect their attendance at summer fire school held locally. He said the department would work harder to find ways to train internally.
Other funding cuts
Some smaller proposed cuts include a $5,000 reduction in funding for Salute to America, which Nickolaus said is a great event the city supports. But when budgets must be cut, the city needs to look at what is most essential, he said. The Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce also is looking at a proposed cut in funding, with a $15,000 reduction in the contract for economic development with the city. “We tried to keep those cuts at a level where they could handle them,” Nickolaus said. Chamber President and CEO Randy Allen said he’s still unsure of how that cut will affect the chamber. “We’re just going to have to take a look at it,” Allen said. “All this surprised us.”
The proposed cuts also include $187,000 in vacancy savings from not filling open positions at City Hall, as well as $150,000 in savings from the early retirement program. In those cuts, and in others, Nickolaus said the city has tried to look at the most essential services and protect them to the greatest extent possible. But that doesn’t mean these cuts won’t be felt by the residents of Jefferson City.
“I think on some level they will feel it,” Nickolaus said.
The City Council is expected to approve the adjusted budget cuts at its regular meeting Monday.
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