City fiscal overseers plan Tuesday to approve a $170.8 million budget that freezes property taxes and reduces spending slightly from this year’s level.
Mayor Art Ward said the spending plan the Board of Finance will consider assumes that officials find a way to save the $1.8 million needed to close a gap in the preliminary budget.
Officials have spent months paring the spending plan by putting off equipment purchases, leaving vacant positions empty and slicing allocations for big ticket items such as road paving.
But when they finished taking a hatchet to the budget, finance officials still had another $1.8 million to slice away. Since they are determined to freeze the mill rate, they need to reduce the spending even more, with no clear path to follow.
That means the city has to reach deals for concessions with its unions or lay off workers before the final vote on the budget at a June 4 joint session of the finance board and City Council.
At this point, it appears the city will reach deals with some of its unions, but probably not all of them.
At least three unions – representing police, firefighters and the city’s so-called “outside workers” in public works and parks, mostly – have shown no serious interest in making cuts to the negotiated settlements already in place, according to four city officials who said they couldn’t talk about sensitive discussions on the record.
On the other hand, Local 233 of the America Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers – which represents most of the City Hall employees – has voted to make concessions, they said, and so has the union to which most city supervisors belong.
What that means is that there will probably be some layoffs in some departments while others will be spared because workers cut a deal that saves the city money.
Ward said he’ll be continuing negotiations with the unions in the coming week. He said he hopes he can prevent layoffs.
School Superintendent Philip Streifer said Friday that he doesn’t think he’ll have to lay off any teachers. He said the reductions to the school budget are going to be felt outside the classroom, not in it.
David Bertnagle, the city’s chief accountant, said Friday that the proposed spending plan going to the finance board is a little less than $108,000 below the city’s budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30.
It isn’t clear how long it’s been since the city has reduced its overall spending, but it has likely been many years.
Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski said that his board plans to begin working on the 2010-2011 budget much sooner than normally.
He said the panel would start calling in department heads much earlier “so we can get a handle on it” starting as soon as August rather than waiting until wintertime to start crafting the next spending plan.
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The Board of Finance meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council chambers on the first floor of City Hall.
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