City Commission Tentatively Adopts Deeply Slashed BudgetSep 12th, 2013 | By Admin | Category: Community News, Front Page
By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
“We’ve cut into bone and sinew for this budget,” said City Manager Tim Bennett during the public hearing portion of September’s city commission meeting, adding that it takes approximately $590,000 a month to run the city of Madison. “I believe we will reach critical mass (shortfall) in month 10 or 11,” he said. Some of the deep cuts included the elimination of leave buy-back for city employees. Demolition of condemned structures within the city limits will also be slowed down, with the jobs being handled in-house on a reduced scale. Additionally, the city staff will continue researching ways to further reduce costs and generate more revenue, including pumping the septic tank at the Woman’s Club building instead of installing a $15,000 sewer connection, exploring possible outsourcing for sanitation operations and grounds-keeping at the two city cemeteries, and looking into reduction of personnel through attrition. The staff will also conduct rate studies for water, wastewater and natural gas, as well as look at increasing fees for city services across the board. At the recommendation of a recent audit of city finances, four separate enterprise funds (water, wastewater, natural gas and sanitation) have been consolidated and streamlined into one fund. Commissioner Jim Catron noted that it was, overall, a pretty conservative budget. “It doesn’t do a lot of things that people would like to see done, but the money’s just not there.” Commissioner Judy Townsend questioned part of the police department’s capital outlay fund that included a leased vehicle for the chief of police, asking if it was really needed right now and could it possibly wait another year, or for another time when the city had more money. The commission voted to remove that item from the budget. The proposed budget is based on the rolled-back millage rate of 6.1715, the rate needed to bring in approximately the same amount of revenue the city is collecting for the current Fiscal Year 2012-2013, with the current millage rate of 6.0484. Coming back to the expected budget shortfall at month 10 or 11, Bennett told the commissioners he would be bringing them monthly updates on where the city’s finances stood as the year progressed, as well as how much of a savings account is available to fall back on should the city see such a shortfall. The budget as currently proposed does not dip into any savings. The commission voted to tentatively adopt the $6,512,580 budget and the 6.1715 millage rate of 6.1715. The was no one in the audience who asked to address the commission, but the public will have another chance to do so at the second scheduled public hearing, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. In a separate item, something Bennett referred to a “one positive note” in an otherwise gloomy financial situation, the commission voted to switch employees’ healthcare from Florida Blue to United Healthcare, a change that would bring a 19% reduction in health care costs for city employees and to adopt Standard for dental and vision benefits at an additional savings.