Superior’s 2021 budget proposals for the general fund, capital improvement program and surplus revenue spending set the stage for some major policy changes in city government.
The policy changes included in Mayor Jim Paine's budget proposals include some of the council’s highest priorities next year.
- Adding a social worker in the Superior Police Department.
- Increasing funding by $10,000 for police training.
- Increasing funding for mass transportation.
- Launching broader snow removal operations for safe routes to school.
- Eliminating library late fees.
The new initiatives would not increase the cost to taxpayers, which spurred questions from the council about cuts made to some department budgets.
“The mayor’s budget is (cut) $32,000, public works shop is $128,000, city attorney is $45,000,” Councilor Tylor Elm said. “Can you elaborate on all the cuts that were made?”
Councilor Brent Fennessey questioned a $25,000 year-over-year reduction in the fire department budget.
Some of the reductions come from reduced personnel costs as higher paid employees retire and are replaced by new personnel at the lower end of the pay scale, Mayor Jim Paine said. Equipment costs once included in the police, fire and public works department budgets have been moved to revolving funds in the capital improvement budget, he said.
The biggest change in the public works shop budget stems from an effort to improve accountability for the city’s vehicle fleet.
“That’s a pretty significant change,” Paine said. “For years, pretty much for as long as anyone can remember, the shop has had a budget for vehicle repairs — labor and the parts.”
With the exception of the fire department, which has its own mechanic, all city vehicles are repaired by the shop.
Instead of budgeting those costs to the public works shop, Paine said the maintenance costs have been allocated to the departments that have vehicles that may need repairs.
“If someone is irresponsible for their vehicle, I want their department head to answer for it,” Paine said. He said supervisors are in a better position than the city’s mechanic to address concerns if a vehicle is mistreated.
“Every department that has a vehicle has now a maintenance budget that is roughly the average, maybe a little bit less of what it’s been over the last 10 years,” Paine said.
The city attorney’s budget eliminates spending for outside legal services.
“Whenever we get engaged in major litigation … it’s usually very, very expensive,” Paine said. “We usually have to bring in professionals.”
Paine proposed paying those costs out of the city’s liability insurance fund by increasing revenue in that fund using surplus revenue from the 2019 budget. The surplus available represents about 1% of the city’s $30.8 million budget in 2019.
The council postponed making decisions on the budget proposals until its Sept. 15 meeting.