$1.5M in proposed Springfield cuts include safety services, parks

4:29 p.m Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016 Politics

Springfield city staff members have recommended about $1.5 million in cuts next year, which could include layoffs, closure of the water park, fewer police officers on the street and cuts to a local tourism agency.

The budget talks come a week after an income tax increase appears to have been rejected at the polls.

>> RELATED: Cuts likely after Springfield income tax appears to fail

Springfield commissioners and city staff members had a contentious discussion about the proposals at the first of two city budget meetings on Wednesday evening.

The city is projected to generate $38.4 million in general fund revenue next year, including $29.7 million in income tax revenues. However, it’s estimated to spend $39.8 million from its general fund, including about $32 million for personnel and medical insurance.

The city is expected to use reserves to offset the nearly $1.4 million deficit at the end of 2017, which will leave its rainy day funds at about $470,000 — or 1.2 percent of its overall budget.

The proposed $1.5 million reductions for 2017 include:

• Eliminating $417,000 for the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.

• Cutting $269,000 from the Municipal Court’s budget and $182,000 from the Clerk of Municipal Court budget.

• Reducing $250,000 through personnel cuts, including the cost of unemployment benefits and payouts.

• Slicing $200,000 from the National Trail Parks and Recreation District.

• Reducing $100,000 in overtime for police officers and firefighters.

• Closing both Fire Station No. 5 and the Johnny Lytle police substation, which will save a total of $70,000.

“Every single one of these is harmful and hurtful to our city,” Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said.

>> MORE DETAILS: Audit says Springfield needs income tax hike, must study consolidation

It could mean job cuts, Bodenmiller said, including in city government and the judicial system. The reduction in police and fire overtime may also have an effect on retaining young talent, both fire and police chiefs said.

A reduction in parks money could mean the Splash Zone Family Aquatics Center might not open next year, Finance Director Mark Beckdahl said.

The closing of Fire Station No. 5 could also mean a change in the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division’s insurance rating.

“It’s going to be higher insurance rates for homeowners and businesses,” Beckdahl said.

The proposal to raise the city’s income tax from 2 percent to 2.4 percent fell short last week by 55 votes, according to final, unofficial results. It could face a recount — or even pass — depending on the outcome of about 800 provisional and absentee ballots from city residents still to be counted.

The ballots will be reviewed by the Clark County Board of Elections at 10 a.m. Monday and the official certification is at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

If the income tax increase ends up passing, most of the cuts discussed this week likely wouldn’t happen next year, Bodenmiller said, but could still happen in the future.

City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill suggested cutting from other benefit packages, including health care coverage and longevity bonuses.

The city is projected to spend about $4.9 million — or 13.9 percent — of its general fund on health insurance. That percentage should be trimmed back to 10 percent to save money, O’Neill said, similar to what the city did by negotiating health savings account plans with its unions.

“We’ve got to get it down,” O’Neill said.

He also wants to see $450,000 in longevity payments eliminated to save jobs.

“At the end of the day, those are the things we need to look at,” O’Neill said. “We can’t leave any stone unturned … I can’t justify saying we’re going to cut people when there are other things we can look at cutting that are benefits for the people.”

It would take years to negotiate those benefits out of the union contracts, Bodenmiller said. It would also make it more difficult to attract talent, he said, and people are already leaving for higher-paying jobs in other cities.

“We’re going to keep losing them,” Bodenmiller said. “It’s happening all the time.”

>> RELATED: Cuts likely after Springfield income tax appears to fail

The cuts to the Clerk of Courts and Municipal Court budgets are about 10 percent, Beckdahl said, which he speculated could lead to job losses. It’s the first time the city has said it will cut those budgets, Bodenmiller said.

“We’re saying they need to share in the same cuts that everyone else is foreseeing and have been dealing with for years and we’ve asked them to do that,” Bodenmiller said.

O’Neill also asked Bodenmiller if he was ready to be charged with contempt of court for reducing the court’s budget. It could go to court in the future, O’Neill said.

“I am,” Bodenmiller said. “They very may well challenge it.”

The city has to provide a sufficient amount of money to perform judicial functions, Law Director Jerry Strozdas said, and the court must prove the money they’re requesting is reasonable.

The budget meetings will continue at 8 p.m. Tuesday, after the city commission’s regular meeting at 7 p.m. Commissioners are expected to vote on the 2017 budget on Dec. 20.

The amount of cuts being discussed is heartbreaking, Springfield City Commissioner Karen Duncan said.

“I hate that I have to be a part of this, but I understand it,” she said. “It’s very painful.”

View full experience