Budget cuts in community events, city jobs eyed

November 6, 2009

By Tim Pfarr

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In the 2010 city manager’s recommended budget, Finance Director Christine Olson forecasted the city will collect slightly more than $6.01 million next year. This marks a 7 percent decrease from the 2009 budget and a 13.7 percent decrease from the 2008 budget.Olson forecasts the city’s expenses for 2010 will be about $6.25 million, leaving the city in need of about $234,000 to make up the difference. City Manager John Starbard recommended the city use funds from its ending fund balance — unused funds from previous years — to account for this difference.

This year, the city is using funds from its ending fund balance to account for differences between expenses and revenue. By year’s end, Olson forecasts that the city will have drawn about $255,000 from its ending fund balance in 2009. After that predicted draw, the ending fund balance would stand at about $1.79 million.

Included in the city manager’s recommended budget are recommended cuts that would reduce the city’s expenses to $6.23 million, as the 2010 recommended budget calls for about $412,000 less in expenses than did the 2009 recommended budget.

The task of reducing expenses was made yet more difficult by the increased cost of public safety contracts, an increase in utility costs and an increase in City Hall’s rent. Together, these three items account for about a $259,000 increase in expenses.

To not only counter this increase but actually reduce the city’s overall expenses, three city positions will be eliminated.

Communications manager Doug Alder resigned, and his position will be eliminated. The positions of Administrative Assistant Tamara Bell and Special Events Producer Jules Maas will also be eliminated. Bell and Maas will be laid off effective Jan. 1.

Starbard recommended the city’s remaining staff members not receive cost-of-living pay adjustments and that they take five furlough days during the course of the year. Starbard also recommended cutting funding for community events, as well as removing audio recordings of City Council meetings from the city’s Web site.

Most residents will likely feel the effects of reductions in funding for community events most. The recommended budget calls for the Concerts in the Park series to be cancelled, as well as Moonlight Movies and the Independence Day celebration. Furthermore, the recommended budget only allocates $10,000 for the annual Newcastle Days festival.

The 2009 Newcastle Days celebration cost almost $27,000, but $17,000 came from sponsorships. The city paid for the remaining cost nearly $10,000. However, Maas was responsible for obtaining sponsorships, and with her position eliminated, Olson said she was unsure how the city would obtain such sponsorships in the future.

Removing audio recordings from the city’s Web site will save the city $7,200 annually, and Olson said this was a justifiable cut, as on average only two people listen to each City Council meeting online.

The city’s first two hearings regarding the 2010 budget took place at the Oct. 6 and Nov. 3 City Council meetings.

The third and final public hearing regarding the budget will take place at 7 p.m. during the Nov. 17 City Council meeting. The council plans to adopt the 2010 budget at its Dec. 1 meeting.

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