Council gets the bad budget news

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The city budget’s shortfall for the next fiscal year will be somewhere between $6 and 8 million, according to Russ Allen, Raleigh city manager. Allen gave city council the bad news at the first FY11 budget workshop Monday afternoon.

Allen said the city would have to cut spending or raise taxes and fees, or both, to balance the budget for next year. Allen said his priority was to not layoff anyone.

During last year’s budget process Allen suggested a number of one-time cuts, such as not replacing police cars, and he is recommending further one-time cuts this year. But he warned that that can put the city in an equipment cost hole that would be difficult to climb out of.

Longer term budget ideas Allen suggested to council include looking at how to make the leaf collection program more efficient, such as having residents bag their leaves for pickup. The city is also taking a more aggressive approach on collecting overdue fees and taxes, for the first time in recent memory the city will start regularly garnishing wages for past-due accounts.

The shortfall comes from less income in the 2010 fiscal year. Allen told council members that he’s expecting the city will make about $7 million less in sales tax this year, about $63.5 million. He said that number is only expected to grow by 5 percent in the next year. And for the entire budget next year he’s only expecting a half percent increase to put the FY11 budget at $186.7 million.

“What we do today sets us up for success in the future,” Allen said.

Here’s the quick break down of the city manager’s budget balancing possibilities:

  • Raise car tax by $5
  • Increase solid waste fee by 50 cents per month
  • Increase impact fees Eliminate more vacant positions, except from the police and fire departments
  • Defer wages and position reclassifications
  • Adjust employee health and dental benefits
  • Collect revenue from collections programs such as audits and wage garnishments
  • Delay opening some of the 11 parks planned for next year
  • Reduce parks and road maintenance
  • Eliminate one of the two city graffiti crews
  • Decrease grants to human services and other organizations
  • Reduce the arts per capita program
  • Don’t replace police cars and two fire trucks

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