Casper City Council Revisits Budget With Possible Drastic Cuts
Casper City Council will meet again today to revisit next year's proposed budget after a new councilmember last week asked for what amounted to a doomsday fiscal scenario.
The city staff had been working on the budget since the beginning of the year at the direction of former City Manager V.H. McDonald, and it anticipates a $3 million decrease in general fund revenues.
The proposed budget would maintain current service levels and not require layoffs.
To cover a $1.1 million deficit in maintaining those services, the city would need to draw down about $5 million of its reserves.
But at a work session Thursday, new Councilmember Dallas Laird and a couple other council members wanted to see what other options, namely budget cuts, were available including possible layoffs and closing some city facilities.
"What I wanted to know was what cuts would you make if you had to, not that we're going to make any of that, I just wanted to know what you would do, what plan do you have if things really get bad and you have to start doing this," Laird said Friday.
For example, he wondered what the budget would look like with a 25 percent cut, not that he actually wants that, he added.
But if that were to happen, the city would need to lay off dozens of employees and curtail services from street maintenance to mowing the grass at the city parks.
The budget's executive summary by Interim City Manager Liz Becher said governments accumulate reserves when the economy is strong in order to have them – and to spend them -- when the economy begins to weaken.
Spending reserves during revenue shortfall allows governments to gradually adjust spending levels to meet the new revenue projections, and they enable governments to avoid making cuts that might be sudden and traumatic, the executive summary said. "City services and facilities take years to develop. Eliminating a facility or a function can generate short term savings, but in the long term, such cuts might harm the City’s quality of life and its prospects for economic recovery."
Mayor Kenyne Humphrey said the budget discussion about possible drastic cuts went off track Thursday evening to the point that the budget presentation was not finished.
City staff is doing what Laird and others asked, but it is rather late in revising the Fiscal Year 2017-2018 budget, which must be in place by the end of June, Humphrey said.
"With that being said, I don't feel like Council really wants to totally make all these cuts," she said. "I think what they're really asking for is kind of a doomsday scenario."
Because of the late request for other options, Humphrey said the council probably will adopt the budget mostly as proposed with the draw-down of $5 million.
City council is in the process of hiring a new city manager who will be able to take a better look at more austere options, she added.
Council will resume its discussion of the budget at a work session in City Hall, 200 N. David St., at 4:30 p.m. today.