Council reviews proposed cuts to 2010 budget

By Megan Graham

The Champaign City Council held a study session Tuesday night to discuss the proposed 2009-2010 budget and a fiscal sustainability plan.

The budget proposes measures to fill an estimated gap of $6 million that would open if adjustments aren’t made. To cover the difference, the fiscal sustainability plan includes cuts of $2.5 million in the general fund; $2 million in other, primarily infrastructure, funds; $800,000 in property tax that will be put toward employee pensions; and $1 million in increased revenues, mostly fees.

The plan also proposes a number of cuts to emergency workers.

“Proposals to balance the budget in times like this are painful,” said Steve Carter, the city manager.

Richard Schnuer, the city’s finance director, said although things are difficult, the city still does have safeguards and is not in a “crisis mode.” He said there is $7.25 million in reserves that could be used if necessary.

“We are talking about reductions, but we are a city with excellent services,” he said. “If we were a family, we would not be a paycheck-to-paycheck family.”

The fiscal sustainability plan also proposes the removal of 15 to 21 city positions, including police officers, firefighters and maintenance workers. Renata Matousova, the budget officer , outlined what might happen when those positions are removed.

“For 911, there will always be help coming; there will be no change,” she said. “For nonemergency services, there might be a slower response.”

Though the council members addressed difficulties implementing some of the new fees, including one on ambulances, the members generally said they believed the sustainability plan was on the right track.

“You did an incredible job of finding $5 million in cuts that really does take a lean city government and make it even leaner,” said Dist. 4 councilwoman Marci Dodds.