PORTAGE | City officials here have been whittling away at the proposed 2014 budget, attempting to balance expected revenue with expenses.
Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham said they likely won't reach a balanced general fund budget by the time the City Council approves the proposal in October.
At a City Council Budget Committee meeting in July, the proposed budget was some $800,000 over anticipated revenues. By this week, the deficit was whittled down to about $229,000.
Stidham said he anticipates officials will be able to cut the deficit to $150,000 by an Aug. 20 budget committee meeting, but doesn't see where any additional cuts can be made. The public hearing on the budget will be held at the City Council's Sept. 3 meeting and scheduled for adoption on Oct. 1.
Stidham said he sees revenue falling for the city in 2014.
"The overall tax rate is 3 percent. As the tax rate gets up to 3 percent, more and more property is being capped out," said Stidham, adding officials also estimate a decrease in assessed valuation in Portage Township by 6 or 7 percent.
"We are literally chasing nickels," said Director of Public Works A.J. Monroe, adding they have knocked down funding for supplies to 2013 levels. Funding for equipment also has been eliminated from all but the street department's budget.
Monroe said some departments have "really sacrificed." Staffing in his department is down, eliminating staff in the planning department which isn't allowing the city to do any "future thinking" planning.
The park department and motor vehicle highway budgets are balanced, said Stidham.
The park department, said superintendent Jenny Orsburn, is proposing a budget 10 percent less than this year.
The Motor Vehicle Highway budget received a $350,000 boost for 2014, said Stidham, when the state changed how gasoline tax was appropriated to local municipalities.
The sanitation budget was reduced when four employees from that department were moved to the city's utility services department, said Assistant Street Superintendent Randy Reeder. The reduction in sanitation personnel was allowed because of automated trash service this year.
There is no funding in the budget to give city employees salary increases in 2014.
Stidham said, the city's health insurance fund, is, as always, the most questionable.
Stidham said they were conservative when estimating next year's revenue and hopes it will increase to cover the gap in the budget.