Recession complicates budget talks |

Recession complicates budget talks

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

City Hall officials on Thursday are poised to begin what are expected to be some of the most difficult budget negotiations in years, with the Park City Council needing to cut money from the current budget and put together a spending plan for the next two years.

City Manager Tom Bakaly is scheduled to present a balanced budget totaling $91.4 million for the 2010 fiscal year to Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council. The city’s fiscal year runs from July until June. The city manager is not asking for a property-tax increase.

Of the total, the operating budget — the money that pays for the day-to-day functions of City Hall, including salaries and payments on debt — totals $42 million. The rest of the money includes funds for capital and construction projects.

Over the winter, staffers and the elected officials started preliminary talks about the budget as the recession took hold. There were early fears that City Hall would not bring in the amount of revenue that had been projected a year ago. That turned out to be the case, and $3.2 million that was removed from the current year’s budget must be formalized during the upcoming talks.

Bret Howser, who manages the budget, said $1 million was clipped from the upcoming year’s budget as well.

"We’re cutting, but it’s not going to be anything real noticeable to the public," Howser said.

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Some of the planned reductions include:

Cutting some consulting services.

Delaying purchases like furniture, computers and other office equipment.

Printing fewer documents and instead posting them online.

Possibly providing less snowplowing than anticipated on new pedestrian ways.

"Was the budget fat to begin with? I don’t think so," Howser said.

He said raises for full-time City Hall workers could be tinkered with as well. The city traditionally provides raises based on the market in the first year of the two-year budget cycle and then gives a 2 percent salary increase in the second year.

The proposal before the City Council reverses the schedule, meaning that the staffers would receive a 2 percent increase in the first year of the budget and a market-based increase in the second year.

The budget talks are slated to begin at approximately 4:40 p.m. in Room 205 of the Park City Library and Education Center. A hearing is scheduled at a meeting starting at 6 p.m. There will be additional hearings through mid-June. The City Council is tentatively scheduled to adopt the budget on June 18.

Park City Councilwoman Candy Erickson acknowledged that the budget talks will be difficult, but City Hall has options. She said the budget will be "tight." Erickson, however, said City Hall has been conservative with its budget over the years.

"We’re probably in better shape than a lot of towns," Erickson said.

She said she would prefer not to delay construction projects since contractor bids have been lower during the recession than before. She said she had not closely looked at the budget by early in the week, saying she was unsure if projects could be delayed.

Erickson said, though, she does not want improvements to Old Town streets delayed. City Hall has been redoing the streets at a steady clip in the last decade.

Williams, meanwhile, said there might not be as much funding immediately available as previously forecast for Old Town streets and work at the Racquet Club. The mayor said budget cuts would be spread through City Hall.

"I’m not anticipating it being devastating to any department," he said. "Everybody was somewhat anticipating and preparing that budgets will have to be trimmed a bit."