Archive for Thursday, May 7, 2009

City sees staff reductions as ‘last resort’

Other cuts considered as commissioners continue work on 2010 budget

City commissioners on Wednesday began work on the city budget for 2010.

May 7, 2009


Cuts in travel, cuts in training, cuts in equipment purchases are all likely to be included in the city’s budget for 2010 — but cuts to the number of city employees aren’t as likely.

That was a message that emerged Wednesday from the Lawrence City Commission’s first of two days of study sessions on next year’s budget.

“We’re absolutely trying to do this without any staff cuts,” said Mayor Rob Chestnut. “Any type of staff reductions would be a last resort.”

But commissioners also made it clear that the city’s belt is going to have to be cinched up a notch. City Manager David Corliss told commissioners that he’s expecting total city revenue to be flat for 2010. That’s a large change from most years this decade when rising property values boosted city coffers by 5 percent or more.

In a sign of how times have changed, the news of flat revenue actually was well received by city leaders, who have heard news of steep declines in other communities.

“Flat is the new up,” said Casey Toomay, the city’s budget director.

At Wednesday afternoon’s study session, commissioners heard detailed budget requests from six city departments — planning and development services, legal services, fire and medical, finance, police, and the city manager’s office.

None of the departments had long lists of new program ideas. Corliss’ office had directed department heads to prepare two separate budget proposals — one that held the line on 2009 spending levels, and another that had a 5 percent cut from 2009 spending levels.

But in another sign that job cuts may not be likely, Corliss’ order to reduce budgets by 5 percent specifically excluded personnel costs.

City employees, however, likely won’t receive much — if any — pay raise in 2010. The departmental budgets were prepared using 2009 salary and wage totals.

“I’m anticipating that we’ll be challenged to provide any significant increase,” Chestnut said.

At least one city division also may still be in jeopardy of being closed or downsized. Corliss had proposed earlier this year layoffs of the three full-time employees of the city’s Human Relations Department — which investigates complaints of discrimination in housing and employment matters. That recommendation was made in response to concerns that the state was going to keep about $1 million in liquor tax revenues that normally is distributed to the city.

Fears have eased that the state will keep that liquor tax money, and staff members are no longer recommending the closure of the Human Relations division. But Chestnut brought the issue back up again on Wednesday.

Currently, the department has three open investigations, and Corliss said the division’s employees have been assigned to help out in other departments at times.

Chestnut said cutting the division and transferring the workload over to attorneys in the city’s legal services department could still be an option.

“I think that is probably at the top of the list to come back to, if we can’t get to the right number any other way,” Chestnut said.

Commissioners will have another study session at 2 p.m. today at City Hall to discuss the budget. Commissioners must have a 2010 budget approved by the end of August.


cowboy 9 years ago

Cuts should have been made two years ago but the city did not have the leadership strength to do it. It will be harder because they have delayed or avoided the inevitable.

If it is a known fact that the 3 staff in housing discrimination area have nothing to do what are you waiting for ? Is the parking enforcement making any money this year? Are the outside contractors , i.e. mowing folks saving us money or not ? Is forestry still planting non-sustainable trees in medians without water ? Can downtown plant their own flowers ? How much have we spent on Homeless this year ? And how about the millions spent on the T , is this a sound use of taxpayers dollars. What is the actual cost of picking up all the grass clippings in town in labor , truck cost , recycling cost ? I have a lush lawn and if you mow frequently you don't need to "catch " your clippings. Cut this service completely or knock it down to one day a month. Travel , Freight , Personal cars , Consultants , Street sweeping , cut exec and commish salaries , quit printing and mailing all the propaganda in the water bills , Put the water bills online , save all the postage and paper cost.

Stop spending city dollars just because you got a fed grant that matches . These are some of the most wasteful projects on record including the new brick streets and the T.

This isn't hard , it's just what they should have been doing the last few years !

Chris Ogle 9 years ago

Flat is the new up,” said Casey Toomay, the city’s budget director.

Just what we need..... a budget director in la-la land

Chris Ogle 9 years ago

I get 7 water bills mailed to the exact same PO Box. I talked to billing, and they simply said "the computer wont let us change that" ........I find that hard to believe.

avoice 9 years ago

Don't count on the State giving up that liquor tax money. In yesterday's LJW, one of the articles on the budget process at the State level said that legislators are still looking at taking funds away from cities and counties. The biggest lesson we're all learning from this recession is that all bets are off. Businesses and individuals can't rely on an established line of credit remaining intact and governments can't rely on an established funding source remaining intact, either.

BigPrune 9 years ago

The City of Lawrence has very effectively built brick walls to prevent businesses from coming to Lawrence. Since there is a shortage in taxes from the City's actions, the first place they need to look at cutting is staff.

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