Friday, July 10, 2009

Hailey proposes 11 percent budget cut

City leaders will review proposed spending plan on Monday

Express Staff Writer

Over the last two years, the city of Hailey has been responding to the faltering economy by cutting staff positions, retraining workers and consolidating tasks. Salaries are also frozen until things turn around.

The mayor and city staff will present next week a budget for the coming fiscal year that proposes an additional 11 percent cut in spending.

But City Administrator Heather Dawson was quick to downplay the effect some of the proposed cuts might have.

"Most of these reductions have already been realized by efficiencies gained over the past two years," Dawson said. "The fact that we started spending so frugally two years ago made this possible."

The budget will reflect a 26 percent reduction in the city's Capital Fund, which has a current balance of $2.5 million, due to adjusted income expectations associated with the annexation agreement for the Old Cutters subdivision. The agreement was revised.

The city was expecting about $800,000 last year and this year from the developers of Old Cutters, but accepted deferred payments in exchange for a transfer of water rights to the city.

In the last two years, the city has eliminated 10 full-time staff positions in several departments, including one police officer. The city has retrained Building Department personnel to work in the Street Department and reduced other staff once needed to handle high volumes of building applications and development inspections.

The Public Works Department lost two full-time positions, and the library gained a half-time employee due to increased demand for its services.

The budget will show a 4 percent cut in General Fund expenses, based on a 3 percent drop in General Fund revenue based on decreased permitting fees, state taxes, and local option tax revenues.

The General Fund is the source of funding for most day-to-day operations.

"The city clerk's office lost one position, but will be busy writing grants and conducting community business outreach," Dawson said.

The city will offer no increase in employee salaries "until an economic turnaround," she said. "I can't remember a year that salaries have not increased."

The city plans to reduce travel costs through new policies that emphasize local training.

"We will focus on bringing trainers here for all city departments through video or live training by visiting instructors," Dawson said.

Mayor Rick Davis and staff will introduce the proposed 2009-2010 city budget to the City Council and public on Monday, July 13, at 5:30 p.m. A public budget workshop to discuss the spending plan will be conducted the following Monday, July 20.

The next fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

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