Presented at a special meeting Thursday evening, the preliminary city budget does not raise taxes or service fees in the city, Mayor Sal Panto said.
“To do this, we have addressed our finances and made significant changes on all levels, on both the expense and the revenue side,” he said. “Our goal, and more importantly, our responsibility to our residents is to live within our means.”
Some highlights in the proposed budget that are planned for 2012, if passed, are:
the plan to raise parking meter fees in the courthouse district to $1 per hour as allowed for by city ordinance, but not yet implemented
$120,000 to support the city's Weed and Seed program, and its director taken on as a city employee, answerable to the city's administrator
$357,000 in capital purchases, including three new police vehicles, a lease payment on a new pumper truck for the fire department, highway supplies, a truck for the public works department and software upgrades
$207,000 to GEDP in support of the Easton Main Street and Ambassadors programs, which represents the shortfall in continuing to fully fund both programs as projected if the is passed
the expansion of the current part-time finance grants administrator position to a full-time position that will also oversee accounts payable
the creation of a revenue and budget manager position that will oversee revenue collections, to begin next March
an additional position in the IT department to help oversee and troubleshoot the city's software upgrade. While planned to begin in July, the position will be permanent, the mayor said.
a part-time human resources position to monitor costs and benefits
Of the new positions being created, Panto said they will save or generate the city more money than their salaries will cost.
The money for the positions, and the expenditures that have risen from last year will come from a $300,000 savings the city will see next year due to cuts in its bonding rate, and from the approximately $300,000 surplus the city has from 2010, he said.
In addition, the costs of legal fees and lawsuits against the city are down, he said.
“If we all get along, it save the city a lot of money,” Panto noted.
Still, the budget is far from finalized. The September presentation is required by the city's Home Rule charter, but the charter also states it must be available for 30 days before public hearings on the matter of its adoption can begin.
City officials said budget hearings will be scheduled for the city council workshop Tuesday meetings beginning in November, likely after elections.
Between now and then, city labor contracts will need to be finalized, and the next NID hearing is scheduled for Oct. 26 in the Two Rivers Landing auditorium.
While the mayor said labor negotiations have gone well across the board and aren't expected to cause the need for major revisions to the budget, the additional funding the Main Street and Ambassadors will need if the revised NID proposal is not passed may require changes to the preliminary budget.
Without any cuts to either program, the difference between what the city expects to budget and what the NID would bring in is about $187,000, GEDP Director Gretchen Longenbach said.
“The city would have had a much smaller contribution if the NID had been passed by now (as originally proposed at 6.95 mills for all Downtown properties),” Longenbach added.
City officials said dates for the budget hearings in November will announced shortly and will also be posted on the city's website.