The Bellevue City Council passed a fiscal 2021 budget of $3,493,467 on Monday, decreasing expenditures by $521,585 compared to last year.

Mayor Ned Burns said city department heads had done a “monumental job” of bringing expenses down while the city faces financial uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Burns expressed dismay that no one from the public had made comments about the financial decisions facing city leaders.

“It always bums me out when we get no public comment,” he said.

The City Council debated whether to increase or decrease staff salaries next year within the not-to-exceed budget total and began scrutinizing line items to see where money could be saved to support salaries.

“It’s going to be a tough year and we don’t yet know how tough,” City Council Chairwoman Kathryn Goldman said.

Goldman advised increasing salaries by 1 percent and revisiting them in six months to see if that number needed adjusting.

Councilman Greg Cappel said he was more pessimistic about the city’s immediate future, but that he would support Goldman’s plan.

“Looking at October through March and April, I could see it as being catastrophic,” Cappel said.

The proposed general fund budget, which covers most city services, will drop by $38,596 to $1,545,862. It includes an 11.2 percent cut to the administration budget, a 5.3 percent cut to community development, a 4 percent cut from the parks department and a 5.4 percent cut from the streets department.

The proposed budget would increase the Fire Department budget by 5.2 percent, the library budget by 3.3 percent, the Marshal’s Office budget by 1.7 percent and the building and grounds budget by 14.5 percent, which would include an additional $6,000 for building cleaning expenses due to COVID.

Councilman Doug Brown said he was more optimistic about the future and that city staff should get 3 percent raises as long as the council could monitor the economic outlook monthly for necessary changes.

Forgoing a 3 percent raise across the board would save the city about $21,000, according to City Treasurer/Clerk Marian Edwards.

Councilman Chris Johnson stressed the need to keep city staff working through what could be a busy period of development.

“Who’s going to get us through the annexation and the Strahorn development?” Johnson said. “These are things that are going to bring money into the city.”

Community Development Director Diane Shay, whose department oversees new development, said she was “comfortable” with projecting $40,000 in revenue next year from building permit fees.

Councilman Shaun Mahoney said the council should be prepared to make hard decisions. He said that 12 years ago during the housing crisis and Great Recession, staff hours were cut from 40 hours per week to 32 hours to make ends meet.

“These are the things you have to do when the crap hits the fan,” Mahoney said.

The ongoing public hearing was continued to Aug. 24 to discuss the possibility of shifting funding within departments for salaries under the finalized not-to-exceed budget.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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