City budget likely to be tight

coinsAs the city gears up to prepare its new budget, it has a projected $28 million problem.

Estimated income for the 2014-2015 fiscal year is down and estimated expenses way up to make that much of a shortfall, finance officials reported Wednesday to the council finance committee.

City Manager Troy Schulte offered some encouragement: “We’ve managed worst numbers.”

One big difficulty is the continuing sharp decline of municipal court fines, projected to drop about $4 million next fiscal year after dropping about $4 million the current fiscal year.

Councilman John Sharp, chair of the public safety committee, reported that a big part of the problem was the conversion to e-traffic tickets.

Computer complexity plays a role with that.

“In retrospect, the training may not have been as robust for some officers as would be ideal,” Sharp said.

Then there is the coverage problem of dead spots in the Sprint system, he said, which is still not solved.

The recent end of the fines from red light cameras because of adverse court rulings will not help.

The police chief has also instructed officers to be less harsh in some areas. The city manager said he is talking to police about the ticket situation.

Councilwoman Jan Marcason said some areas that need traffic calming would even encourage more tickets.

“I don’t want everyone in my district to have tickets but I do want them to drive the speed limit,” she said.

Big expenses for next fiscal year include more than $11 million for the police and civilian pension fund.

The city has until the fourth week in March to adopt the new budget.

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