Having already cut more than $317,000 from its 2008 budget because of a reduction in state local government aid, the city of Brainerd is now looking at cutting another $413,000 from its 2009 budget.
At a special Personnel and Finance Committee meeting Thursday, city department heads presented proposed cuts for the 2009 budget of $668,425. Several council members also presented ideas for cuts to the 2009 budget, including a proposal from council member Bob Olson to cut more than $876,664 from the 2009 budget.
"These are probably the most serious decision and discussions we're going to have to make," City Administrator Dan Vogt said. "You can't cut so much and not expect services to change a little bit."
Vogt also said the state's $413,000 local government aid cut was a projection and he warned the committee it could be bigger. With that in mind, committee and council member Kelly Bevans suggested - and the committee unanimously recommended as a starting point - preparing a list of all possible cuts for prioritization at the committee's Feb. 17 meeting.
The target for cuts the committee will look at is the proposed $413,000 in local government aid plus a third of what was cut in 2008, about $104,000.
Committee and council member Anne Nelson Fisher wondered if the dollar amount in cuts proposed by Bevans shouldn't be increased.
"I'm worried ... and this is a liberal talking, I'm not sure that's a big enough number," Fisher said.
Committee Chairwoman and council member Mary Koep said everything in the city's budget is under consideration.
"Sacred cows have no place here," Koep said. The committee agreed the amount proposed was just a starting point.
From the department heads, the $668,425 in proposed cuts included $130,595 from administration/mayor and council/unallocated funds, including a wage freeze that would save $125,000; more than $164,000 in cuts to the police department, including not hiring two officers; $41,250 to the fire department; $5,073 to the planning department; $3,841 to the engineering department; more than $50,000 to the street and sewer department; more than $20,000 to the parks department. The proposal also included more than $240,000 in increased revenues.
Olson, who attended at Thursday's committee meeting, in a memo suggested a total 2009 budget reduction of $876,664, which included $139,242 in proposed cuts proposed by department heads.
Like department heads, Olson suggested freezing wages, reducing workers compensation and insurance premiums, reducing professional development, deleting or reducing supplies and including additional revenues to help offset the local government aid reduction.
Olson also suggested reducing temporary staff, deleting overtime for the parks and street departments and reducing money given to Brainerd Community Action for fireworks and asking that organization to instead use the increase it receives in its tax levy.
While not listing a specific dollar amount, council member Bonnie Cumberland presented to the committee a list that included looking at mandates from the state, cutting fireworks for the Fourth of July, finding energy savings, eliminating funds for non-essential training, instituting a wage freeze; doing away with city-issued cell phones; adjusting work hours and schedules; more competitive bidding; more grants from the state and federal government; and more volunteering from city residents.
"Every little bit helps," Cumberland said in her memo, which was read by Vogt.
Fisher also presented a list that included cooperation with Baxter and other units of government; early retirements; implementing energy efficient items; changing the fine and fee structure; and questioned whether the city recycles enough.
Vogt also said department heads and supervisors will be looking at staffing, including reducing hours, reducing the work week, reorganizing shifts and layoffs; a voluntary resignation incentive; who it contracts with for services such as garbage, phones and fueling; and sharing services with Baxter or Crow Wing County.
"We're looking more closely than we ever looked at all these areas," Vogt said. "We're going to continue to provide essential services for the community, but we're going to look at everything."
The committee also discussed mandates from the state that might be reduced to help the city offset its local government aid loss, though Vogt said he's heard nothing yet from the state.
The mandates include pay equity, paying the prevailing wage, mandatory binding arbitration, data requests, elections, wastewater requirements, animal control, emergency management and waste disposal facilities. One area that may come under consideration to be delayed is the state-mandated switch to an 800-megahertz emergency personnel radio system, which could cost the county millions.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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