The proposed budget for the City of Three Rivers for Fiscal Year 2011-12 received attention for approximately two hours during a special meeting of the Three Rivers City Commission Tuesday evening (May 10th).
Finance Director Cathy Lawson used a PowerPoint presentation to outline information about the spending plan that contains some significant cuts, including layoffs and trimming of worker hours, to yield a balanced budget for the period that begins July 1st.
General Fund budget reductions include elimination of the Administrative Services Director position/department and the following cuts in the police Department:
• Eliminate the two Police Clerk positions
• Eliminate the Code Enforcement Officer position
• Eliminate one Police Officer
• Eliminate the Grant Funded Police Officer (funds with COPS Grant)
• Police Union Concessions – Wage freeze of 3 percent increase. Reduced holiday premium pay from regular plus double-time to regular plus single-time. Eliminate cleaning allowance for one fiscal year.
A number of city employees were on hand for the meeting – including police and fire personnel – something mentioned by City Manager Joe Bippus in his opening remarks in which he noted “the difficult times we’re experiencing as a community and state.” He said, “This year has been very tough trying to put a balanced budget together, one to keep the city fiscally sound. I tell you, I have to be very proud of all the workers for the city, the employees. Everybody stepped up to the plate.” But he added, “Unfortunately, the problems we’re facing are pretty large and we’re going to have to make some tough decisions in order to maintain the facilities and maintain all the things we like to try to do.”
In the course of the budget review, Mayor Ken Baker suggested the possibility of seeking additional millage to keep the present staffing. He said, “My own personal opinion is, I think that’s a decision the people should make. If they want to keep that staffing level for the police department at the present status, then the people ought to have the option to do that.”
Baker said, “I understand it’s kind of late in the game to get a millage proposal going, but that’s not our fault because the state came out with all this stuff so quick. I think, my own personal opinion is, there may be enough, if we decide to go with the millage vote in November, if we can get it done by then, there may be enough in the unallocated, the reserve you have, to cover that four or five months in case the millage fails.” (Ken_Baker audio_clip – 1:04)
Baker asked, “Are you prepared, when we get into the budget more later, to come back with what type of a millage we would have to ask the people for to keep the present staffing?” Lawson responded by saying that, to reinstate the two police officers proposed for elimination would require a millage rate of .75 mills, which would generate about $150,000. She said maintaining the Administrative Services Director and the police department staffing would be around $325,000 which would require about two mills.
Baker praised Code Enforcement Officer Roger Stanfill and said, “I know Roger’s done a heck of a good job in the years that he’s been here and I think he’s been well worth his money and his time and I think he’s done an outstanding job.” Later in the meeting, Commissioner Daryl Griffith also lauded Stanfill, noted the progress the city has made through his efforts, and said, “I don’t want to backslide on that one.”
A second special budget meeting is scheduled for May 24th and a third, if necessary, is set for May 31st.
During a post-meeting interview with the River Country Journal, Bippus said he anticipates that city commissioners will be contacting him to share their input as the budget-making process continues. And he said, “Everybody’s taking some cuts in order to balance the budget and resize the organization to match revenues.” (Joe_Bippus_audio clip 1:19)
To hear the full interview with Joe Bippus – conducted by Bruce Snook of the River Country Journal – click on the following link: Joe_Bippus_interview (5:31 – 5.06 MB).