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City planning for deficit

January 29, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Raising property taxes is not an option. Neither is cutting the number of firefighters or police officers.

Those are the guidelines Hagerstown City Council members set for city finance officials who are looking for ways to deal with a projected $1.1 million deficit in next year's general fund budget.

Council members and the city's top finance officers met Tuesday evening at City Hall to discuss ways to balance next year's budget.

Typically, the administration does not meet with City Council members to discuss the budget before it is presented. Because of the projected deficit, administration officials wanted to get a sense of how the council would like to see the budget balanced.

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The City Charter requires that the city administrator submit a balanced budget to the council by March 31. The city administrator's proposed budget can be changed in any way by the council, which must pass a final budget by June 30.

Raising trash collection fees, leaving unfilled positions unstaffed and taking money from the city's reserve account remained on a list of possible ways to balance the budget for Fiscal Year 2000, which begins July 1.

Council members Lewis C. Metzner and Alfred W. Boyer said they would favor taking $200,000 from the city's Community Betterment Fund, which is funded with profits from the City Light Department, and putting it into the general fund.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said city officials should look for many different ways to save relatively small amounts of money.

She suggested reviewing whether paying city employees every other week instead on every week would produce any savings.

Saum-Wicklein also said city officials should consider cutting back on a policy that pays for city employees to continue their education. Currently, city employees have their classes and books paid for by the city.

If you save $10,000 and $15,000 at a time it adds up, Saum-Wicklein said.

No exact date was set, but council members and administration officials are expected to meet again before the end of March to discuss ways to balance next year's budget.

Council members said at that meeting they would want to look at a proposal for balancing the budget.

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