City spends most of budget on public safety

City commissioners held a public hearing concerning the 2013 budget earlier this week. They’ll vote on the proposed budget at their Dec. 18 meeting.

Public safety services such as police and fire account for 58 percent of the city’s general fund, while 11 percent goes to the municipal court.

“While this isn’t an exciting budget — we don’t have a lot of money to do neat, cool things with — we’re able to maintain our services,” City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said.

The city’s general fund revenue is expected to be about $37.6 million in 2013, with 74 percent coming from income tax revenues.

“Most cities aren’t as reliant on income taxes and we’re almost solely reliant on income taxes,” Bodenmiller said.

Income tax revenues are projected to be about 3.5 percent more than in 2012, but state cuts, including the reduction in local government funds, estate taxes and the elimination of personal property taxes, will result in $2.4 million less revenue.

“We’re fully realizing those cuts,” Bodenmiller said.

The city will also need to dip into its rainy day fund to cover a more than $1 million shortfall. The city’s reserve dollars are expected to be about $3.6 million at the end of 2013, about 9 percent of its general fund. The city typically aims for a 10 percent reserve.

The city will employ 571 full-time workers in 2013, down from about 700 in years past.

The police division will employ 128 sworn officers, while the fire division will have 127 firefighter/paramedics.

City employees haven’t received across-the-board raises since 2008, and none are budgeted for 2013. The city’s payroll expenditures are down about 1 percent from the 2012 budget.

The permanent improvement fund, which pays for debt and large capital expenses, is budgeted for about $3.4 million in 2013. About $2.1 million of that will be spent on debt payments.

The city will replace eight police vehicles, three service vehicles, a medic unit and a brush chipper.

While there will be no water rate increases in 2013, the sewer rate will increase 4 percent in 2013 and the storm water rate will increase to $1.30 per equivalent storm water unit.

The rate increases will go toward paying for about $70 million over the the next three years for infrastructure improvements required by the EPA, including construction of the Erie Express sewer.

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