The Springfield City Council will be taking up Mayor Domenic Sarno’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1st. The almost $552 million request is 2% lower than this year’s budget. Sarno calls his budget proposal balanced and sound but austere. He says a combination of reduced property tax revenues and state aid, along with increases in non-discretionary costs and expenses from last year’s tornado and late October snowstorm has made for the leanest bare-bones budget in years.
“I made some tough cuts, but I had to make those cuts. I can’t go back to the old ways of some years ago which put the city near bankruptcy.”
12 city workers will be laid off and 96 vacant positions will be eliminated, including 72 in the Police and Fire departments. Three library branches will be closed, the mowing and maintenance of ten city parks will be discontinued, as will street and sidewalk repairs. Sarno says more layoffs and cuts will be necessary if the City Council fails to approve proposed increases in the trash fee and local hotel-motel tax. But City Councilor Tim Rooke says the Mayor should not have included those items in the budget.
“You never prepare a budget based upon assumptions.”
Rooke says there’s no support among councilors for increasing the hotel-motel tax. And he says the council is still waiting for Sarno to submit an alternative after he withdrew three previous trash fee proposals. Rooke says he doubts the city council will pass the budget as is.
“In speaking with some of my colleagues, I know they’re concerned about some departments. And they may…may be making additional cuts. Certainly if there’s not a consensus for the trash fee, that’s going to be a cut. If there’s not a consensus on the hotel-motel tax, there’s a cut.”
Rooke says negotiations between the Mayor and City Council over those cuts make it highly unlikely a final budget will be voted on before July 1st. He adds it appears more likely the city will have to rely on an interim monthly budget until a final spending plan is approved.