City may cut services to cover shortfall

Published 7:05 am Wednesday, March 4, 2009

By Staff
Washington may also reduce its employees’ hours
Contributing Editor
Facing an expected $1 million shortfall in revenue, the city of Washington may cut spending in the upcoming budget by reducing employee hours and curtailing some services.
That revelation came during the City Council planning session Tuesday morning.
Early on in the planning session, City Manager James C. Smith responded to a request by Mayor Pro Tempore Doug Mercer to include a line item in the upcoming budget specifically identifying money set aside for employee cost-of-living salary adjustments.
In another cost-cutting move, the city manager also said the city is developing a plan to reduce employee hours — thus lowering the amount the city pays in salaries. Smith said the city is considering reducing full-time employee hours from 40 to 37.5 per week. A loss of 2.5 hours a week would result in a 6 percent decrease in wages per employee.
Also to help reduce expenses, the city likely will reduce some services or decrease the number of hours city facilities are open. For example, city offices and facilities may close on Friday afternoons during summer to save money on airconditioning and employee wages. That possibility is strong, council members indicated.
It’s either reductions in services to lower costs or a tax increase to raise more revenue, Mayor Judy Meier Jennette told the council.
Councilman Archie Jennings said the city must make tough decisions concerning its finances.
As one of his discussion topics, Tuesday, Jennings spoke about creative problem solving in city government.
Creative problem solving is especially needed at the department level during a recession, he said. Jennings added he believes the city can get “leaner” and do more with less, provided it gets input from department heads and division supervisors.
Jennette made it clear she wants to avoid a tax increase during the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The council expressed the same desire and expressed that if a tax increase is inevitable, city taxpayers should be informed as soon as possible.
Jennings noted that the city must become more proactive and less reactive when it comes to handling budget matters to survive an ailing economy.
He suggested that the bulk of the council’s input and guidance should be provided to the city manager before he or she develops a proposed budget.
See Thursday’s Daily News for more coverage of the planning session.