Budget gets nodThere’ll be fewer jobs in Superior city government over the next two years, but no one is losing a job to eliminate positions.
There’ll be fewer jobs in Superior city government over the next two years, but no one is losing a job to eliminate positions.
City services remain largely unaffected.
Despite shared revenue cuts that leave the city funded at a level the state provided in 1999, lost investment income and dropping permit fees, Mayor Dave Ross delivered a balanced budget to the council Tuesday night that holds the line on the tax levy at 2.5 percent increases for each of the next two years.
Shared revenue didn’t go down as much as it did in 2003, when the city lost about $500,000, Ross said, but the loss was compounded by the loss of investment income and declining permit fees.
“With those three forces acting on our budget, we’ve had to make a number of choices …,” Ross said.
Those choices included eliminating six positions vacated by retirement, promotion or resignation, reducing the level of funding for capital improvements and trimming funding for the city’s museums.
In addition to revenue losses, the state capped levy increases to 3 percent for all local units of government and adopted regulations that require cities to maintain funding levels for public safety over the next two years.
Ross said the two-year budget meets those obligations as well as continues the city’s plan to be free of general obligation debt by 2019. The council’s decision to implement that debt-reduction plan using terminal tax money helped the city meet its obligations with shrinking resources, he said.
Plus, the city begins funding a “pay-as-you-go” plan for capital improvements in this two-year budget cycle, said Finance Director Jean Vito. Instead of borrowing for its capital improvement program, the city sets aside funding for streets, sidewalks, parks and other projects rather than borrowing for them.
The spending plan projects spending $27.2 million in 2010 and $27.8 million in 2011.
“We have really lead with this budget,” Ross said. “We made tough decisions.”
The budget was not without controversy however.
“We have a part of the budget that is growing faster than any other part of the budget and that’s police and fire,” Ross said. “I take very seriously the safety of the community. But it doesn’t stop me from making tough choices so that part doesn’t grow faster than other parts of the budget.”
While the budget increases funding for police and fire departments, the rate of growth is slowing under the proposal councilors approved Tuesday night.
The Superior Fire Department’s budget remains unapproved as the department tries to maintain a firefighter position slated for elimination. Ross said the three fire halls would still be manned with three firefighters daily, but agreed to withdraw the budget for a couple of weeks to give firefighters and management a chance to determine if there is another way to cut expenses. The council considers that plan Oct. 6.
Ross implemented developing a two-year budget because developing the city’s financial plan can be an onerous and divisive task, and believed developing a long-range financial plan better served the city and taxpayers. Budgets are developed within a four-year framework “so we don’t end up in a collision course in a budget year in which we have to make even more unhappy choices,” Ross said.
A public hearing on the final budget, required by state law, is slated for Nov. 3.