Council plans work session on revenue shortfall

PORTERDALE - City Council members will hold an Aug. 20 work session to come up with a plan to deal with a projected $108,000 shortfall in revenues for 2010. City department heads will be asked to come to the meeting to speak in support of their budgets.

Council members, who were advised of the shortfall at a regular work session Tuesday night, appeared divided over how to close the gap between anticipated tax collections and projected 2010 expenditures.

City Manager Tom Fox told the council that, after last year's budget cuts, there is little room left to economize.

"In order to maintain just what we've got now, it will require a millage rate increase," he said.

Councilwoman Linda Finger adamantly disagreed, saying that many Porterdale residents on fixed incomes could not afford a tax increase, especially after the city just passed water and sewer rate increases.

"Everybody is struggling, and the city is struggling, too," Finger said. "But we can't just keep on saying, 'Sorry, you owe us more.'"

Fox said that he anticipates some savings from two open positions in the Public Works Department and from reductions in budgeted legal fees. But those savings won't be enough, he said.

"I hate to say it, but the one place to cut it, the only place to cut, is public safety," Fox said.

Porterdale's General Fund budget, which includes the Police Department, administration and public works, totals about $1.1 million. The Police Department budget makes up about $500,000 of that.

Councilman Robert Foxworth objected to cuts in the Police Department, saying that the city should consider a combination of expense cuts and tax increases.

"If we are going to hit our employees, we are going to hit the public, too, because we hit (the employees) hard last year," Foxworth said, referring to job cuts the city made in 2008.

Fox said it would be necessary to cut three full-time positions to close the budget shortfall without a tax increase.

Finger said the city should consider pay cuts or unpaid holidays in order to cut personnel costs.

Councilman Lowell Chambers suggested the council review all city expenses in order to determine where cuts are possible.

Alice Queen can be reached at alice.queen@rockdalecitizen.com.