City Council members approved a balanced budget this week and saved a counselor’s job at the last minute, but many residents are sure to feel budget cuts totaling about $1.3 million.
Gone are several full-time employees, the Fourth of July fireworks, the DARE anti-drug program and a boxing club for underprivileged youths. Some City Hall positions are being downgraded and even the weight of the paper used to print the city’s newsletter is being reduced.
The cuts mean the city, for the first time in years, is not depending on one-time credits to balance its $39.7-million budget, interim City Manager Greg Beaubien said during a public hearing Monday.
“This budget is actually balanced on ongoing revenues for ongoing programs,” he said, adding the budget is 2% higher than last year’s spending plan.
Before approving the budget, the council voted 3 to 2 to spend $10,000 from a $200,000 surplus to keep the city’s psychological counselor for employees and their families.
The counselor had been paid an annual salary of $55,199 as a full-time employee, but agreed to work part time for $35,000. The budget initially allowed only $25,000 to hire a counselor from a private firm.
“It’s a very valuable program and it has saved employees’ jobs when they’ve had alcoholism or other problems,” Mayor Art Brown said in support of spending the extra money to keep the city counselor.
Councilmen Jerry Sigler and Jack W. Mauller agreed but Councilwoman Patsy Marshall labeled it “a luxury we can’t afford.” Councilman Steve Berry also voted against the action.
The council voted 4 to 1 to approve the entire budget, with Marshall saying no because of the extra spending for the counselor.