BLOOMINGTON — The City Council will hear more details Monday on nine options it could act on to cover a $2.9 million deficit in the city's budget, including reducing household bulk waste and brush collection.
Several department heads will speak about the list of suggested cuts and fee increases at the 7 p.m. meeting at City Hall. No action on the budget proposals will be taken at that meeting.
On the list of items targeted for action are: $1.1 million from solid waste; $500,000 from a hiring freeze; $225,000 from raising fees to cover the actual cost of their related services; $200,000 from creation of a business registration fee; $200,000 from eliminating free parking hours and converting to an automated access system at city parking decks; $100,000 from reducing the service level of some programs; $25,000 from selling some facilities; $25,000 from improving collection of overdue fines, fees and city utility bills; and $525,000 in miscellaneous reductions in city departments' operating costs.
"Staff isn't recommending any of that, necessarily. I am not recommending it," said Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen. "The council could move those pieces around any way they want. We're just giving them a balanced budget as a starting place as they begin to decide what they want to do and what they don't want to do."
Rasmussen said he will use feedback from the council about the options to develop the fiscal 2019 budget proposal that he plans to present to the council Feb. 26. Fiscal 2019 will begin May 1, 2018.
Following a public hearing March 12, the council could adopt the budget April 9 or April 23. It must be adopted by April 30.
The fiscal 2019 budget is expected to call for spending about $214 million overall, including about $105 million in the general fund, which pays for most operating expenses. Those spending amounts are about the same as in fiscal 2018.
Flat revenue in the face of increasing costs means the city will have to deal with a deficit of $2.9 million in that budget along with a long list of unfunded capital projects, Rasmussen said.
The biggest reduction of services suggested is in the solid waste program, which Public Works Director Jim Karch will present at Monday's meeting.
At a town hall meeting hosted by three aldermen Jan. 9, Rasmussen said the city staff will be bringing a recommendation to the council that could eliminate the city's current $1.25 million annual subsidy for the solid waste program. The proposal involves limiting bulk waste pickups to one week in the spring and one week in the fall, as well as halving the size of its solid waste truck fleet by half by running just two shifts instead of three.
The solid waste fund is supposed to pay for itself entirely with fees paid by the public, but the shortfall has been covered by the city's general fund.
The city staff also has compiled a list of $74.5 million worth of possible capital projects. If bonds were floated to pay for all of them, the city would have to pay an estimated $6 million a year in debt service.
Two capital project that people voiced support for are fixing more of the streets and a $10 million aquatic park to replace the aging O'Neil Park pool on the city's west side.
"I don't think we can open it this year. It's gone," said Rasmussen about the state of the 44-year-old pool that was designed to last only 25 years. "The problem is there is no money for either of those."
The city usually has $4.8 million in annual revenue for street and sidewalk improvements: $2.4 million from motor fuel taxes and $2.4 million from the local sales tax
To increase the funding by another $2.3 million to repair more streets, the council could look at raising the motor fuel tax from 4 cents to 8 cents per gallon, said Rasmussen.
If a 20-year bond issue is floated to replace the pool, the debt service would be $600,000 annually, said Rasmussen. Money to pay the debt service could be generated by a sales tax increase or by raising property taxes $17 a year for the owner of an average house, he added.