East Bethel considers more budget cuts to eliminate increase

by Karin Craig
For the Union

In response to East Bethel Mayor Richard Lawrence’s insistence the city do whatever it can to avoid a proposed less-than-one percent increase in the city’s tax levy for 2013, city staff has been digging deep to find additional money to carve out of the budget.

On Wednesday, Oct. 3, City Administrator Jack Davis presented the city council with a list of line items the council could consider cutting. The list included postponing the replacement of a street maintenance employee until April 2013 for a savings of $21,000, eliminating a part-time park maintenance employee for $6,290 and cutting a proposed $25,000 transfer from the city’s general fund to its parks capital fund. The entire list adds up to $68,090 that could potentially be cut.

Councilmember Bob DeRoche voiced concerns about whether it is really wise to slash the city’s 2013 budget any further. “When do we stop cutting? At what point do we say OK, look, we’ve cut so much out of here that there’s nothing left?”

Davis said that although the list of $68,000 in potential cuts is not “slush,” it is made up of things that could be cut without a significant reduction in city services.

Councilmember Heidi Moegerle made a motion to accept the $68,000 in cuts and continue to review the budget until the final version is adopted. However, the motion failed in a 2-2 tie, with Councilmembers Steve Voss and DeRoche opposed.

Moegerle pointed out that the city council has yet to address a projected $91,000 bond payment deficit for 2013.

Unless the council directs otherwise, the city is proposing to pay the deficit from the general fund, said Davis.

One potential revenue source to help cover the payment is an estimated $60,000 that East Bethel could collect in 2013 if the city enters into a contract with Oak Grove to provide building inspection services for that city. The East Bethel City Council did authorize city staff to submit a formal proposal to Oak Grove for providing those services.