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Restoration project

The proposed city budget allows for the reinstatement of previously eliminated public safety positions.

Clifton Adcock May 18th, 2011

The public got its first glimpse at the proposed city budget for the upcoming fiscal year during the May 10 City Council meeting.

Craig Freeman
Credits: Mark Hancock

And compared to previous years’ budgets full of bad news, cuts and declining revenue, this one wasn’t so bad.

“Relative to last year, it’s good economic times, but if you look at the trends that we’ve seen, it’s really more moderate economic times,” said City Manager Jim Couch. “There are a lot of good things we could do with more money, but we put together a budget this year I think that addresses our core needs and helps restore some of the cuts we made in the last year.”

Although the budget adds positions and services, it still leaves the city below fiscal year 2009 staffing levels, Couch states in the city’s budget book. And while projected revenues for the upcoming fiscal year have rebounded from their recession-level lows, they are only 3 percent above fiscal year 2009.

Besides the restoration of positions and services, the city will also move 100 public safety positions that it had transferred over to the MAPS 3 use tax fund, which was supposed to go toward buying public safety equipment and which proponents of MAPS 3 said during the campaign would be used to fund additional police and fire positions.

Those positions will be paid for out of the general fund, and the MAPS 3 use tax fund will be reimbursed around $8 million, budget officials said.

“With this budget, I think we’ve achieved some of the goals that the council gave us when we started the budget process … to get off the fund balance for the MAPS 3 use tax for public safety to put those public positions back into the general fund,” Couch said.

Under the proposed budget, the city’s general fund, which pays for most day-to-day municipal services, would be around $364 million. That is about a 6 percent increase from the general fund for the current fiscal year, which ends in June.

Budget Director Craig Freeman told the council that under the proposed budget, the 29 firefighter positions eliminated during the recession will be brought back in the next fiscal year, thanks to a two-year homeland security grant, and the firefighters to fill those positions are currently in training.

After the grant expires, it will cost the city about $2 million annually to maintain those positions, he said.

Meanwhile, the city will restore the 22 police positions eliminated during the recession, Freeman said, while moving the 100 public safety positions from the MAPS 3 use tax fund into the general fund.

“Everyone recognized it wasn’t a good decision that we wanted to make, but it was one to preserve those services we needed,” Freeman told the Council. “Council made it very clear to us it was the highest priority to get off of that one-time temporary revenue, and that’s one of first steps we’re making this budget.”

But it won’t just be public safety positions coming back. Freeman gave a long list of other city positions to be restored as well.

The city clerk’s office will have positions added to help respond to records requests, while development services will have positions and added services to help with adoption of animals and code enforcement, Freeman said.

The finance department will also add employees to help enforce delinquent sales tax remittance from vendors, and several positions will be added to the information technology department.

Other services and departments benefitting from the proposed budget are civil litigation, municipal court, parks and recreation, personnel, public transportation and public works. Fire department administration and police overtime for gang and traffic enforcement will also receive funding.

There will be several other meetings with the City Council as the finer points of the proposed budget are hammered out, and Freeman said he expects the budget to come before the council for a vote on June 14.

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