City officials are beginning what could be a long road to layoffs and service reductions next year.
“We have to take a look at everything,” Mayor Art Ward told city department heads this week.
The mayor said he wants every city supervisor to prepare a memorandum detailing what it would take to slice his department’s spending by 5 and 10 percent.
“Try to be innovative and creative,” Ward said, urging officials to look for ways to be more efficient to revise “the ways and means of doing things” at City Hall.
With city leaders looking ahead at a budget gap next year that may top $10 million – about 8 percent of its annual spending – the Board of Finance is eyeing major changes as the only hope of coping with the problem without a massive property tax hike.
“They’ll be coming up with ideas about how to better serve the public,” the mayor said, based on the information provided by department chiefs.
John Smith and other finance commissioners said the city has to consider ways to restructure itself.
But he also said the city ought to look into the possibility of buying natural gas at the wellhead in Texas and electricity from the hydropower company in Quebec, steps taken by some private companies trying to squeeze every dollar.
Ward said the nine-member finance panel, which oversees the city’s budget and bonding, is already working on the budget for the fiscal year that starts next July.
With state aid stagnant, building and real estate sale fees down and expenses rising, the city is heading into a financial crunch with no obvious way out.
Ward said that overseers will be monitoring spending carefully and eyeing alternatives, including the possible consolidation of city offices.
Preparing the scenarios for cuts, he said, will let officials know “exactly how it’s going to effect your department.”
“We need to know what the impact’s going to be on your department,” Ward told several dozen city supervisors during this week’s department head meeting.
“It’s not going to be easy,” the mayor said. “I know it.”
“There are not a lot of choices,” Ward added. “We have to take a look at everything.”
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