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Jefferson's budget cuts keep staff intact
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JEFFERSON — In order to prepare for the upcoming fiscal year, Jefferson officials had to make cuts to the proposed budgets offered by each department director.

"We have a process where our department directors identify projects and other items throughout the year and we pair that with other items that have been identified by the city council. We put all that together and then we start paring down the list to match projected revenue," said John Ward, city manager.

The proposed budget reductions were necessary because of limited revenue growth expected for the next budget year, city staff say. Overall, more than $200,000 worth of cuts were made to create a proposed citywide general fund of around $6.6 million for fiscal year 2010.

"Most of what was pared down were major capital projects and program expansions," said Ward. "So far we haven’t had to eliminate any positions or services."

Capital projects are those that cost more than $5,000 and that have a potential life span of more than five years, Ward said. These projects can include things like road resurfacing and buying a new vehicle or equipment.

"We had a little more than $1 million in capital fund requests, but we cut that down to around $105,000," said Ward.

The only two capital projects surviving the cut were two new patrol vehicles for the Jefferson Police Department and new equipment for the Jefferson Fire Department. Some of the capital projects cut from the budget were resurfacing portions of Old Pendergrass Road, renovating the city pool and purchasing new GPS equipment.

On the general fund side of the budget, all departments lost funding that was slated for employee raises.

Due to the state of the economy, several members of the Jefferson City Council suggested during a meeting in July that the city eliminate annual employee raises for fiscal year 2010. Eliminating the raises has saved the city more than $83,000.

The budget cuts also include postponing various projects like landscaping the Jefferson Civic Center and the implementation of a new Third Thursday Art Exhibit program.

Although the city is having to cut back on funding, Ward asked all department heads to pursue outside funding sources through grant programs. So far, the program has paid off well for the police department. The group recently received more than $26,000 from the U.S. Justice Department to purchase new equipment.

The proposed budgets cuts and amounts must be approved by the city council before becoming the law of the land. The council is holding off on taking action on the proposed budget until it learns what the projected tax revenue will be. That figure is still being calculated.