Gainesville taxpayers will have a chance to comment about how the city spends its money at tonight’s first budget hearing.
Although the city has not proposed any increase in the property tax rate, the budget on the table does include a proposed increase in trash and recycling fees for city residents.
Working with a budget that is 2.5 percent smaller than the current year’s budget, city department heads were forced to cut their spending. And not all cuts were of departments’ discretionary spending, City Manager Bryan Shuler said.
"None of these things (cut) were what we consider luxuries," Shuler said.
To absorb rising health insurance costs without raising taxes, every city department went to the chopping block more than once, and all of them will have to wait on hiring new employees until at least next year.
Here’s a look at some of the budget’s highlights and its effects:
Gainesville’s solid waste fund will receive less than half the support — $147,402 — from the city’s general fund that it did this year. City officials are proposing a $2.20 ($2 for trash collection and 20 cents for recycling) increase in trash collection and recycling fees to make up the roughly $150,000 the solid waste fund needs to account for higher landfill fees and gasoline costs.
Proposed funding for the Gainesville Police Department has increased to about $9 million for fiscal year 2009. Most of the increase will pay for rising health insurance costs for the department’s 126 employees. The department will be able to replace its two police canines and train two more officers to work with them, but will have to wait to add two investigators who would have targeted burglaries — a crime police officials say has increased in frequency during the past year.
Gainesville Fire Chief Jon Canada had to trim his budget by another $80,000 after his initial request of $5.6 million. The cut means the department will have to wait on two new employees who Canada previously said he needed to account for the city’s growth. And a requested replacement for a high-lift air bag that helps the department lift heavy objects to rescue trapped victims will also have to wait on a better economy.
Even Municipal Court Judge Hammond Law was turned down on a request to receive a new employee. Earlier in the budgeting process, Law told the City Council that the court needed an employee who would solely collect money and work separately from those who enter information about fine amounts in the court’s computer system. The employee, he said, would increase the court’s credibility.