Budget analysis finds dollars for libraries, recreation centers

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By James R. Riffel

City News Service

An analysis released Friday of Mayor Jerry Sanders' budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year identified millions of dollars that could be used to prevent drastic cuts in the hours that libraries and recreation centers are open to citizens.

The city's Independent Budget Analyst put out a 175-page report detailing its findings on the proposal, which will be scrutinized by the City Council beginning next Wednesday. A major section of the report addresses ways to avoid the mayor's proposal to cut the hours of libraries and recreation centers in half, and to reduce each department by the equivalent of 77 full-time employees.

The IBA report listed $15.8 million in ongoing expenses that could be redirected to other uses, and $4.5 million in one-time revenues that could be used. Additionally, the IBA quantified the budget impact if there were changes to Sanders' plan to bring back fire engines cut to save money in the current fiscal year.

The options include, among others:

• adjusting anticipated revenues upward by $3 million, based on improving sales tax and hotel tax income;

• eliminating flex-plan benefits for management to save $1.4 million;

• not increasing workers' compensation funding by $1.4 million;

• reducing arts and culture spending by 10 percent to save $620,000; and

•cutting IT discretionary funding by 20 percent to keep an extra $1.5 million.

Most of the items were included in a City Council resolution passed earlier this month to influence the mayor's budget proposal, City Council President Tony Young said.

"I feel confident most, if not all of those, will be reaffirmed by the council — about $7 million or so,'' Young said.

Sanders cut eight fire engines from service this year, on a rotating basis, to save $11.5 million, and restoring them has been a top priority of the City Council. The mayor agreed to bring back four engines on July 1 and the rest at the beginning of 2012.

According to the IBA, restoring only six of the engines this year would save $2 million, and bringing back four would save $4.3 million. The remainder would be returned the year after.

Young said it was a top priority to restore library and recreation center funding, or at least not cut their budgets as deeply as the mayor did. The IBA reported that fully funding them would require a combined $10.7 million.

The City Council's resolution contained 23 recommendations for cutting expenses or raising revenues. According to the IBA, the mayor incorporated nine of those into his budget proposal.

"I think that's the benefit of the resolution — that we're willing to support more of these (ideas) and assert — and insert — ourselves into the process,'' Young said.

The IBA said the mayor's office has not responded to questions of why some recommendations were included and others were not.



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