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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Budget tweaked again

In lean year, Ketchum spending cuts continue

Express Staff Writer

As Ketchum City Council members last week continued to make cuts to the proposed 2004-2005 fiscal-year budget, the police chief and fire chief said they cannot sustain any additional reductions to funding for their departments.

After a special budget hearing Thursday July 22, City Administrator Ron LeBlanc said the city has succeeded in cutting $60,000 sought to pay for scheduled salary increases for all city employees.

The city administrator said additional cuts being made will likely ensure the city has a surplus calculated into the 2004-2005 budget, which goes into effect on Oct. 1.

"We’re calculating what the bottom line is right now," LeBlanc said Tuesday. "We’re estimating that we’ll have a balanced budget with a slight surplus."

Mayor Ed Simon on June 28 presented a nearly $9.7 million budget for the 2004-2005 fiscal year. However, in doing so, he conceded that numerous cuts would have to be made to provide so-called salary "step increases" for city employees, which had been eliminated to balance the city’s proposed revenues and expenses.

Police Chief Cory Lyman, in proposing a $1.3 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year, said last Thursday that he will be challenged to maintain the high level of service demanded of his department. The budget request represents an approximately 5.5 percent cut from the approved police budget for the current 2003-2004 fiscal year.

"We’ll feel it," Lyman said.

The police chief noted that he will be forced to cut his staff of community service officers, who assist in enforcing city codes and parking regulations.

"We’re not laying anybody off or anything like that," he said. "We’re accomplishing it through attrition."

Fire Chief Greg Schwab asked council members to approve a $714,000 funding request for his department. The proposal represents an approximately 12 percent increase over the Fire Department budget for the current 2003-2004 fiscal year.

Pursuant to pleas from Schwab and Simon, council members decided to restore so-called "performance awards" for the city’s volunteer firefighters. The awards—which would amount to approximately $2,000—had been cut from the draft budget.

"We need to invest in our people," Schwab said.

In reviewing the city’s proposed funding for the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority, council members agreed to support a plan put forth by Simon to cut public funding for the organization by $25,000. However, the sum will be replaced with monies collected as in-lieu-of-affordable-housing fees collected from developers.

In the end, city officials said, the Housing Authority will receive $67,500 from the city, a slight increase over funding in the current fiscal year.

Michael David, executive director of the Housing Authority, said he expects the organization will be "self-sustaining" by the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

Budget hearings will continue Monday, Aug. 9. A public hearing on the budget will be held at City Hall Monday, Aug. 16.


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