Council: Cut budget more

Published 5:36 pm Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Contributing Editor

The message was plain: Cut the overall budget by 2 percent.
That was the instruction the Washington City Council gave city staff during the council’s work session on the proposed 2010-2011 fiscal year budget held Monday.
With the proposed overall budget at $62.1 million budget, the 2 percent cut comes to $1.24 million. The 2 percent cut includes the $500,000 the council earlier directed city staff to cut $500,000 from the Washington Electric Utilities budget.
Before the proposed budget came to the council, city staff cut the initial proposed 2010-2011 budget for Washington Electric Utilities by $1.7 million.
The vote to make the 2 percent cut was unanimous, with Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Roberson making the motion for the reduction.
During the four-hour session, Mayor Archie Jennings and council members made it clear they want a slimmer budget than the proposed budget submitted to them by City Manager James C. Smith in April. Councilman Ed Moultrie made it clear he doesn’t want the budget to adversely affect city employees.
Councilman Doug Mercer was ready to cut the budget even more.
“If we don’t start cutting, this thing keeps mushrooming,” Mercer said about the budget. “I think the entire budget needs to be cut 5 percent.”
Jennings said he believes the proposed budget contains several “wish-list items” that can either but cut or deferred until another budget year.
Jennings also has an eye toward reducing — and eventually eliminating — the annual transfer from the electric fund to the general fund. It’s something he’s been pushing for several years.
“If we save money in the general fund and everywhere else, we don’t have to take that money out of the electric fund,” Jennings said.
The council has adopted the mayor’s view regarding that annual transfer.
In the proposed budget, the transfer would be $973,150, or $200,000 less than the transfer made from the electric fund to the general fund during the current fiscal year.
Under the existing financial climate, the city has “got to tighten the belt a little more,” Jennings said.
Smith reminded the council that the decline of revenues and the increase in insurance-related costs present a challenge for the council to overcome as it works to finalize the upcoming budget.
The proposed budget does not call for increases in utilities rates — electricity, water, sewer, solid-waste disposal and stormwater.
The council meets again at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the Municipal Building, 102 E. Second St.