By Mallory Ragon
The budget committee has begun looking at the city’s budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. At their January session they discussed a variety of ways to cut the budget by $1.8 million. The new fiscal year begins in July.
Councilmembers Rob Binney, Allan Gray, Derek Holland, Bob Johnson, and Dave Mosby were present at the January 22 meeting.
One possible cut they discussed was to the healthcare benefits for city employees. City employees are not currently required to contribute toward the basic coverage plan. The city has ensured compliance with the Affordable Care Act, but the cost is growing, and Holland argued that the city will need to ask its employees to begin contributing to their health plans.
City Manager Steve Arbo presented potential cuts across a variety of city departments, including fire, police and public works.
The committee and staff agreed that they did not want to reach for a quick fix, or to focus cuts in just one area.
"This is not a one-year situation," Johnson said. "These deficits are here for several years, which we obviously cannot afford."
Holland observed that the city has largely stood up against the repercussions of the 2008 recession. "Our city has held together," he said. "And we still have healthy balances, but they’re dwindling. So I want to commend you for stepping forward and saying we did what we could for as long as we could, but now we have to make some tough decisions."
Arbo will be bringing more ideas back to the committee for additional discussion before any recommendations are made to the full council.
"Everything’s on the table," Johnson said. "It’s not just one sector that’s going to finance the deficits."