The Cherokee City Council scanned the general fund portion of the proposed 2006/07 fiscal year budget during the Monday evening meeting and will resume budget work at a special meeting on Thursday evening at 7 p.m.
The general fund portion relies primarily on property tax revenue, unlike other portions of the budget such as water, wastewater, and trash collection which rely on fees for the services and street repair which relies on various revenues, including the city's portion of the state road use tax.
The budget as submitted by the various departments would create a deficit of about $44,000 if all the city reserves were spent. To avoid the deficit and keep the reserves intact, the council would need to crop $120,000 from the budget as proposed.
"We have to ask ourselves whether we can afford 24 hour coverage of not only the fire department but also of the police department," Dwight Varce, council member, stated.
Ron Strickland, city administrator, noted that last year, the amount of $34,000 from various fees was put on the board in the formula for funding the fire department but the reality is that something over $10,000 is expected for the year.
Strickland speculated that the state might require the future consolidation of fire departments, perhaps only one fire department for a rural county, making it necessary for a district fire department, likely Cherokee, to add personnel.
Regarding not having at least one police officer on duty at all times, Bob Leach, council member, said that would result in added call out time at overtime pay.
"It just wouldn't work," Leach said.
Dan Morrow asked from the audience what the estimated cost of a current arbitration matter would cost.
"Are you talking about the half hour lunch," Strickland asked, to which Morrow responded affirmatively.
Strickland said that would have minimal impact, $2,700 at most.
The police department personnel had settled a two-year contract with the city last year. Other represented employees are negotiating a two-year contract this year, to begin at the start of the fiscal year on July 1. For budget purposes, personnel cost of wages and benefits is expected to increase by 4 percent. This is just a guess at this time.
The meeting Thursday begins at 7 p.m. in the council room at city hall.