Council mulls $450 million budget

Published 7:26 pm Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The city’s spending plan for the upcoming year holds the real estate tax rate and jobs steady, but reduces minor employee benefits and cuts funding to some nonprofit organizations.

The budget was revealed in a City Council work session on Wednesday. Council members praised the hard work of the city manager, budget officer and staff to overcome the many challenges, including declining revenues and increasing expenses that combined to produce a deficit of $9.3 million.

“I know that this has been a collaborative effort,” said Mayor Linda T. Johnson. She said she was happy that the budget is balanced, and allows the city to keep critical services and jobs without dipping into reserve funds. Surrounding cities have had to raise taxes or take money from savings to make their budgets work.


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The budget, which decreased 11 percent from the current year, calls for half the money to go to Suffolk Public Schools for its budget. Some of that 51 percent, however, is federal and state money that must go through the city’s budget process to be allocated.

The spending plan does not call for taking on any new debt, although 8 percent of the budget is allocated toward paying off old debt.

The preliminary budget plan does not call for pay increase for any city staff, and recommends cuts in non-essential benefits such as tuition reimbursement, on-call pay, take-home vehicles for employees who live out of the city, awards for longtime service and non-essential clothing costs. Budget Officer Anne Seward said staff had done a lot to prevent layoffs.

The city also plans to reduce funding for equipment replacement, cellular service, travel, office supplies, subscriptions, memberships, and other non-essential categories. The city will continue a hiring freeze on 24 non-essential positions, and will save $117,000 by reducing leased space through the completion of the health and human services building.

The spending plan also includes a recommendation for adding fees for certain recreational programs and curbside bulk refuse pickup.

In the capital projects fund, the city is recommending deferment of two fire station facilities, two fire trucks, channel dredging, and the Holland/Whaleyville elementary school replacement.

The budget document is available for review online at In addition, it may be reviewed in person at the municipal building, city libraries, fire stations, the Chamber of Commerce, Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, Suffolk Executive Airport and the Crittenden Sonoco station.

Council has scheduled work sessions on the budget on April 8 and April 15. Public hearings on the budget will be held April 15 and May 6. The April 15 hearing will focus on the proposed operating and capital budget, while the May 6 hearing will focus on the proposed tax rate adjustment for the Route 17 tax district.