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Escanaba begins budget work

February 1, 2011
By Jenny Lancour

ESCANABA - Even though Christmas has passed, city administrators are putting their wish lists together for Escanaba's upcoming 2011-12 fiscal year budget. What they want and what they get will be affected by state revenue sharing funds - expected to be reduced yet another year.

"Currently, department heads are putting together their preliminary budget requests," said City Manager Jim O'Toole. "Once these requests are completed, they will be compiled so that we can see where we are at with revenue versus requests."

The budget process for the upcoming fiscal year begins each January as department heads review their needs. The city administration then drafts a budget which is presented to council for review. Following budget workshops and public hearings, council approves the financial proposal in May.

An anticipated reduction in state revenue sharing will be among the deciding factors in what goes into the city's upcoming budget. The current budget of $37 million experienced a decrease in state funds last year. Escanaba isn't the only one feeling the pinch. This reduction has been an unwelcome trend for many municipalities.

"If the state cuts our revenue shares 20 percent - which is rumored - that will have a financial impact of approximately $250,000 to our general fund. A cut such as that is really going to have an impact on programs and people," O'Toole said.

"The city of Escanaba has been very proactive in budget management versus being reactive," he added. "Cuts have been made when necessary and practical. Processes have been streamlined or changed when necessary to save money. And opportunities to share services or purchases have been implemented in order to save money when possible."

At this time, the city manager could not say if the proposed budget would include any personnel changes, such as layoffs or hirings.

"Throughout the year, we review each position as it becomes available due to retirements and other reasons," he said. "We have already eliminated one public works position due to a retirement. I am not anticipating any layoffs at this point, however, it's early in the process."

Another budget consideration will be two employee contracts expiring this year, O'Toole noted. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Police Officers Labor Council will negotiate new agreements.

O'Toole also said it's "too early to say" if there will be any rate increases for water, wastewater or garbage. Electric rates for 2011-12 will increase by the 4.7 percent hike announced during last year's budget process.

Council held its first public hearing on the budget Jan. 17 with no input received. The public is invited to comment at upcoming public hearings or by submitting requests or ideas to the city manager. Public hearings are scheduled for Feb. 17 and March 17.



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