The city council deserves to pat itself on the back.
And Finance Director Nevrus Nazarko deserves some applause for producing a workable budget deficit elimination plan that gives the city a three-year window to remain financially stable.
Although there was plenty of talk and some debate, the council, except for Councilmember Robert Zwolak, voted in favor of the plan and to apply for an emergency state loan.
Councilmember Abdul Algazali didn’t vote because he has been out of town for the past couple of weeks.
Zwolak voted against the deficit reduction plan because it includes a small tax increase for property owners.
This plan is a requirement for the city to secure a state loan. City officials are seeking up to $3 million to help bridge the city over its financial crisis. If nothing is done, the city will eventually run out of money and rack up a $3.5 million debt by this time next year.
If state officials agree to the loan and deficit elimination plan, that gives the city some breathing space to work on a long-term budget plan.
Despite the loan and the deficit reduction plan, the city will end up having a $1.2 million budget deficit in three years because that’s when a federal firefighter grant would run out.
But there is one way to prevent that, said Nazarko: Reduce the number of firefighters from about 30 or so to 14 full-timers. The rest of the department would be manned by on-call firefighters who would work for something like $15-$20 an hour with no benefits.
Well, that’s one way for the city to save about $1 million.
No matter what, city officials have to come up with a way to save $1.2 million from the budget. They have a little over a year to figure out the plan.
The other option is for city officials to argue for the next 12 months and do nothing, which would likely lead to the state stepping in and making the hard decisions.
Judging by how this council operates, it’s a roll of the dice which way it will go.