September 14, 2006

Budget Woes Force City To Make Cuts

Faced with several difficult budget decisions, the Memphis City Council entered the 2007-08 fiscal year at the September 7th public meeting with announcements of numerous cuts.

The escalating electric rates focused much of the councilís attention on the city light department. Faced with the prospects of a deficit budget in the department, the council made significant financial cuts including the elimination of one position on the cityís line crew. A position at the city light plant was also eliminated, with that employee being transferred to the street department.

The budget woes forced the city to eliminate the position of animal control officer, which had also performed office duties at the light plant and the police department.

Combined with other cost-saving moves, the city trimmed more than $100,000 from the nearly $1.9 million budget for the electric plant.

The council also lowered the transfer rate for electric revenue into the general fund from five percent to three percent. An estimated $60,000 of the cityís $1.9 million electric revenues will be transferred into the general fund, which pays for the operation of city hall as well as the police department. This transfer is made in lieu of the utility franchise fee that is typically received by municipalities from the service providers.

The next step is to make the cost-cutting moves translate into lower electric rates for city residents.

The council scheduled a special meeting Thursday, September 14 at 5:30 p.m. to review electric rates. The city has contacted the Missouri Public Energy Pool (MoPEP) asking that a representative of the cityís power provider be present for the meeting. Mayor Roger Gosney indicated this would be the first of a series of meetings to review the electric situation in an effort to address rising costs.

In another cost-saving measure the city amended its policy for the superintendentsí vehicles. Under current policy the superintendents were required to drive their department truck to and from work.

Alderman Brush presented figures that indicated that this policy, on just the two vehicles operated by the superintendents that do not reside within city limits, was costing the city approximately $1,500 to $2,000 a year in fuel alone.

The council voted 4-0 to repeal the policy and mandated that superintendentís vehicles would be parked at the department headquarters when the operators were not on duty.

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