East Bethel council to carve another $47,000 from 2013 budget

The East Bethel City Council voted 3-1 Oct. 17 to carve an additional $47,090 out of the city’s preliminary 2013 budget. Councilmember Bill Boyer voted against.

The cuts included all but a $21,000 street-maintenance line item in the $68,090 that city staff brought forth as possible cuts to the council Oct. 3. That $21,000 would have been saved by not replacing a full-time street employee who is leaving in November until April 1, 2013.

The additional cuts come as part of an effort to eliminate the currently proposed less than 1 percent 2013 levy increase.

Mayor Richard Lawrence has been insistent that the city does what it can to keep the levy increase at zero, while Councilmember Bob DeRoche has voiced concerns about cutting too much at the expense of city services.

The action to approve the additional cuts came after a long discussion, which included some back-and-forth on how the city had originally intended to repay obligations to the Metropolitan Council, what a city’s role should be in providing business incentives and just how much the proposed cuts will actually affect city services.

“If you’re cutting the budget, you’re cutting service,” said Boyer.

“I don’t like the idea of cutting street maintenance,” said DeRoche.

The proposed vacancy in street maintenance would happen during the city’s snow plowing months.

Councilmember Heidi Moegerle asked DeRoche what alternatives he would suggest.

“Is this what it’s going to take to make a zero levy [increase] for God’s sake?” said DeRoche.

As it currently stands, the 2013 preliminary levy is only going up less than 1 percent, which amounts to about  $15 per household, he said.

“I don’t think people are going to complain about $15 a year . . . people spend more than that on a case of beer,” DeRoche said.

There must have been a need for the part-time park maintenance position that is included in the newly proposed cuts for a savings of $6,290, or it wouldn’t have been put in the budget in the first place, he said.

According to Moegerle, the council can always put the cuts made now back into the budget later, and she suggested that these last cuts be the first restored.

The city will vote on a final 2013 budget and levy in December; the levy may be less than, but not more than, the preliminary levy adopted in September 2012.