The workshop continues a process that began last summer and which will continue through the spring. Several additional meetings are expected prior to issuing a tentative budget draft in April, with final approval expected sometime in May and a filing date set for June 1.
“There is a lot of stuff to go over,” Mayor Geno Martini said, adding that a lot of options for where budget cuts would be made were still in play.
Each city department will present its own budget reduction proposals to the council, with accompanying analysis of how service levels will be affected.
Public safety departments are expected to take the most significant hit in funding largely because they receive the greatest resources and allocations. But talk of laying off police officers and firefighters raises more eyebrows than talk of employee cuts in other departments.
Councilman Ed Lawson said there were “a lot of hearts and minds to change” in terms of how the budget process is best approached. He and Councilwoman Julia Ratti have previously expressed support for an incremental, phased approach to budget cuts to obviate potential layoffs, while other council members generally support a targeted goal approach — for example, capping expenditures on employee salaries and benefits at 78 percent of the total budget, down from a current rate of 90 percent.
Lawson likened the broader, goal-oriented approach to a business funding its savings account at the risk of losing its workers.
Councilman Ron Smith said a phased approach had been used in the past with little success and that now is the time to deal with budget cuts in a more direct manner.
“We need to make drastic changes” in order to get the city operating in a sustainable way, he said.
Councilman Ron Schmitt said the workshop provided an opportunity to review more data and, consequently, allow for better direction to the finance staff in preparing the budget.
He also said an open mind was essential when considering the litany of budget possibilities available, something echoed by Martini.
“We don’t want to make decisions too quickly,” he said.
The City Council budget workshop will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the City Hall basement training room at 431 Prater Way.