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Proposed Bryan budget avoids tax hike, layoffs

Proposed Bryan budget avoids tax hike, layoffs

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Bryan will freeze 14 vacant positions for at least half a year, but won't have to raise taxes or lay off employees to fund the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Bryan City Council on Monday accepted a recommendation by staff members for the 2010-11 budget four days before Friday's deadline.

The first public hearing and reading on the proposed budget and tax rate will be Sept. 7. The proposed -- and current -- tax rate is 63.64 cents per $100 property valuation, which means an owner of a Bryan home assessed at $100,000 will pay $636.40 in annual city taxes.

Deputy City Manager Hugh Walker told the council that the balanced budget includes revenues of more than $41.6 million and more than $52.7 million in expenditures. The difference comes from a separate category, which includes almost $11.5 million in funding transfers from revenue-generating departments and right-of-way permits, leaving a net of almost $400,000.

"I think this council has been more involved in this budget process than, probably, councils in the past," Mayor Jason Bienski said.

Walker detailed the 14 positions that will be left vacant for another six months to a year in order to cuts costs during a weak economy, including the community services coordinator. That person typically supervises juveniles who have been sentenced to community service in lieu of a fine.

City Secretary Mary Lynne Stratta, who oversees that employee, said it's a position that needs to be filled because there aren't many nonprofits that will take one or two juveniles needing to meet the required hours without adult supervision.

However, she said, they are working on other methods that can help troubled youth.

While the fire department will be able to hire eight firefighters, it will have to do without its fire services clerk, Walker said.

"The chief [Mike Donoho] has graciously said for six months maximum, that they can get by without filling that position," he said.

Walker said city staff will evaluate the positions that are being held open over the next year.

"With almost each one of the positions we talk about, there's going to be an impact," Walker said.

The proposed budget includes helping Coulter Airfield with a $40,000 shortfall by transferring money from the Special Projects fund, Walker said, adding that the city will attempt to meet its 60-day fund balance policy -- adding up to more than $8.7 million to be available in case of emergency -- in two years.

Officials said funding from the solid waste, water and wastewater departments will be taken -- somewhere between 5 percent and 7 percent -- and moved into the city's general fund. Officials said ratepayers won't see an increase on their bills for another few years.

Bienski said this was probably the most difficult budget to work through in the past 10 to 15 years due to the economy.

"Under the circumstances I think we're doing a good job," Bienski said.

Bienski said the city departments made many sacrifices in putting together the budget to prevent layoffs, furloughs or pay cuts.

Councilman Art Hughes said he'd like city staff to focus more on searching for additional revenue streams, increasing those figures and ensuring work is being done the most economical way possible for the next budget season.

"I think that should be a major, major part of the budget process," he said.

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