Posted Online: March 13, 2010, 9:46 pm

Silvis struggles to find budget cuts

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Seth Kabala, seth@sethkabala.com

Speaking before the start of a Saturday closed session finance committee meeting to discuss salaries and benefits, chairman Ald. Barb Fox, 2nd Ward, said the city has exhausted its emergency reserves.

Ald. Fox reported at the Feb. 16 council meeting that the city was facing a $234,860 deficit for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which begins May 1.

On Saturday, she said the finance committee is close to balancing the city's budget. Exact figures were unavailable because of ongoing negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Salaries and benefits for AFSCME-covered positions are a large portion of next year's budget and must be finalized before council can pass the budget. Ald. Fox said she hopes to have final numbers turned into the city's accountant, by next Tuesday.

During Saturday's lengthy meeting, Ald. Fox said the finance committee went line item by line item in each departmental budget to find cuts. She said very few areas, other than contracted funds for police and AFSCME employees, escaped the red pen. Actions to balance the budget include the following:

-- No salary increase for the city engineer or attorney.

-- No purchases of new vehicles.

-- Reduced postage and utilities.

-- Reduced fuel usage through department head monitoring.

-- Potentially increasing fees associated with building and plumbing permits.

-- Absorbing the parks department into the public works department when parks supervisor Bob Amstutz retires in May.

--) Leaving Amstutz's position vacant.

-- Small equipment purchases "downsized drastically."

Ald. Fox said the city will find a way to fund ongoing training for police, public works and various department heads. "We feel we need that to maintain quality service for residents," she said.

As for the rest of the budget? "I would say bare bones is a very good description of what we're looking at right now," she said.