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Most Gainesville departments seek less money from city

POSTED: April 20, 2009 11:46 p.m.
TOM REED/Times file photo

Cuts to Gainesville's city inspector's office have mainly been in the form of manpower, with two positions cut.

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Gainesville Chief Financial Officer Melody Marlowe told the City Council on Monday that the city will be $900,000 short on revenue this fiscal year.

City revenues have declined on almost all sides. Income from construction permits is expected to be less than half of what the city budgeted for fiscal year 2009, and Marlowe projects that property tax revenue also will decrease this year.

But, the news isn’t all bad.

"The good news is our expenditure savings will more than cover that," Marlowe told the council.

City department heads are meeting with the City Council this week to make final proposals for their Fiscal Year 2010 budgets. The budget year begins in July, and city officials will spend the next month fine-tuning the yearlong spending plan before the City Council votes on the final version.

Already, city department heads have had to make sacrifices so their expenses mirror revenue projections without raising property taxes. Overall, the operating budget for fiscal year 2010 is proposed to be $25.7 million — nearly $2 million smaller than the current budget.

To make the cuts, City Manager Kip Padgett said the city eliminated 48 vacant positions. City department heads are coming to the City Council this week requesting budget amounts that are even smaller, on top of a previous 5 percent slash to departmental expenditures.

Instead of seeking money for large capital projects, most of the city department heads who met with the council Monday outlined ways they have been able to cut back.

The City Council will resume budget meetings Wednesday, discussing the budget proposals of numerous divisions of the Public Works Department and the Georgia Mountains Center.

Here’s a look at the departments that met with the council Monday, and how they have trimmed their expenses:

Fire Department

Fire Chief Jon Canada was the only department head asking for a budget increase Monday, with the budget proposal for FY 2010 up to $5.53 million.

Canada told the council that the department needs to replace a 14-year-old fire engine at Fire Station No. 3 on Nancy Creek Road for $525,000. The replacement would allow the current engine to be used as a reserve truck, he said.

Canada is also asking the council for $75,000 to replace fire hoses, some of which are 30 years old. Some 25 sections of the department’s fire hoses were deemed unusable when annual tests were performed, he said.

To save money, the department has cut fuel costs and energy use, Canada said. During a fuel shortage last fall, the department cut out nearly all public outreach programs requiring travel. Now the department encourages church and school groups to come to the city’s fire stations for safety programs.

The department is also putting off some big-ticket equipment replacements.

City manager’s office

The department has proposed a $970,552 budget for FY 2010. The request is nearly 5 percent smaller than the current year’s expenses, and includes the elimination of the records management coordinator, a vacant position.

City Manager Kip Padgett said he hopes capital expenses for software to manage records and council meeting agendas would also eliminate the need for creating that position in the future.

Financial services and information technology

The combined departments are requesting a budget of $1,685,015 for FY 2010. The request is 8.2 percent smaller than the current year’s budget. On top of eliminating two vacant positions, Marlowe said the department renegotiated some renewable contracts to keep costs low.

The department cut more than $10,000 in telephone expenses, Marlowe said. She said the department eliminated unnecessary features such as caller identification on some city phones and disconnected others.

"We found some lines that weren’t even being used," Marlowe said.

The department is also creating a purchasing handbook to train other departments and make sure the city’s funds are being spent wisely.

The department is also seeking ways to recover lost revenues. For example, the department is conducting an audit of all solid waste operators in the city limits to ensure that the city is receiving franchise fees.

Inspections

The department requested a budget of $394,657. The budget request is nearly $100,000 less than the current year’s budget. The department lost a residential inspector and a permit technician last month when the city eliminated a few positions related to the stalled housing market.

Planning

The department requested a budget of $572,117, a 7 percent decrease from the current year’s budget.

The department also lost one full-time employee and one part-time employee when the city reduced its work force due to the downturn in the housing market.

Planning Director Rusty Ligon said the department is also seeking other sources of revenue.

"We are constantly looking for grant opportunities," Ligon said.

City marshal’s office

The marshal’s office presented a budget Monday of $408,656. The request is 11 percent smaller than the current year’s budget, a reflection of the reduction of a deputy city marshal. The work force reduction is one of the few filled positions that the city eliminated to deal with declining revenues.

Human resources

The department requested a budget of $388,708, a 14.6 percent decrease from the current year’s budget. The department has not filled is assistant director’s position.

TV18

The government news channel receives revenue from both Hall County government and the city. The station’s request for FY 2010 is $84,000. Station manager Ronny Childs told the council that the station has cut back on employee training and travel as well as relying on volunteers to help produce shows.



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