They called it “Reconciliation” but it looked more like “Divergence.”
The goal of that Thursday April 30 city council agenda item was to come up with a consensus plan for balancing the budget, but each councilmember had his or her own plan, and the city manager had one or two, herself.
City manager Barbara Matthews, though fiercely protective of city staff jobs, saw two places to reduce expenses: employee insurance benefits and a hiring freeze. She also floated the idea that the city could start charging user fees for such services as vacuum truck leaf-pickup.
Councilmember Josh Wright said the tax burden might be reduced by the average amount the city collects every year for its reserve fund. He also thought a small across-the-board budget reduction would save money without causing layoffs or service reduction. Councilmember Colleen Clay suggested a hiring freeze and job shifting in what she has called the “top-heavy” Recreation Department.
Councilmember Terry Seamens thought the Public Works Department’s new facility should be put on hold for a while. He also called for a 3.5 cent (per $100 real estate assessment value) reduction in the property tax rate.
At the end, the city manager got them to find some common ground. They all agreed they don’t want to have any employee layoffs. They all agreed they want a reduction in the tax rate. The city manager floated a 2-3 cent reduction, but councilmember Clay said 2 cents was not enough, and councilmember Seamens lobbied again for 3.5 cents.
The city manager, who has been burning barrels of midnight oil to deal with requests from the council to provide additional budget information, will burn more as she makes a list for the May 4th city council meeting showing how different cut percentages would effect city departments.