City will make hard choices to balance budget - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City will make hard choices to balance budget

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Albany-- Job cuts, reduced services, and more fees, are the harsh realities the City of Albany is facing to balance its budget. Tuesday city commissioners got their first look at next year's $78.5 million budget. Every department must make big cuts, and that could jeopardize some services.

It's a juggling act for the city of Albany - cutting cost without jeopardizing the services to taxpayers. "It was very, very difficult," said Finance Director Shirley Smith. Smith presented the budget to city commissioners.

Revenues aren't growing but expenses are, so balancing the budget meant cutting 24 positions. That would save a lot of money, but six people might lose their jobs.

Commissioner Bo Dorough said, "The excess positions in the city's staff are in administration, not the guys who are out on the streets delivering services. That's what we need to look at."

The police department will lose eight positions, the school resources officers. But those officers will be placed in other unfilled APD positions. The Police Chief says the community's safety won't be at risk, but your recreation could be.

The Parks and Recreation department stands to lose two positions. "Some of the programs might have to be cut, some of the hours of operation might have to be reduced, and a gym might have to close," said Public Works Director Phil Roberson.

Despite the job cuts, the budget does include a 2% cost of living raise for all city employees and merit raises for some. Some commissioners, including Dorough, say raises should be given only to employees doing a good job. "You're compensating people on the basis of services as opposed to longevity," Dorough said.

City employees will pay more for health insurance, as much as $18.00 a month for families. To bring in more money, the staff suggested raising the cost of services such as garbage pick-up or bus rates.

That could keep property taxes from going up, but in the end citizens are still shelling out more money. "The citizens are paying fees as opposed to property tax," Dorough said.

Other money saving measures - getting rid of the print shop and outsourcing the job and reducing benefits to retired employees.

Now, commissioners will start the long battle to balance a budget so tight you'll definitely feel the pinch. The final budget must be approved by June 28th.

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