(WICHITA, Kan.) — Service reductions and possible staff cuts, that's the outlook for the Wichita City Council as work begins to balance the budget.
Council members got an early look at some of the numbers during a workshop meeting Tuesday morning.
Wichita was facing a $1.3 million deficit in 2012, but was able to make up that loss through savings in street maintenance.
"No doubt 2013, 2014 are going to be rough for us in terms of balancing the budget," said Wichita City Manager Bob Layton.
That's the message Layton gave council members Tuesday, as they held their first public discussion about the budget.
"Our outlook is very challenged, some of our revenue streams are not growing like they have in the past," said Wichita Budget Officer Mark Manning. "Property valuation primarily is very constrained."
Property taxes generate about $75 million each year, which is 35% of the general fund. The city had projected a 1.7% growth in valuations in 2013, but that didn't happen. Leaving $2 million out of the general fund.
With revenues down and expenses up, the city is now projecting a $5.5 million shortfall by 2014. Which means council members will have some tough choices ahead.
"70% of our general fund budget goes to personnel and it will be hard to make up a deficit and still be able to protect level of service and keep our employee base where it is," Layton said.
Some on council voiced added concerns, that the city's budget projections are too optimistic. Especially with big budget questions, like how to pay for public bus service.
"I think the revenue forecasts need to be as flat lined or as conservative as possible," said Council member Pete Meitzner. "We need to adjust just like you guys do in your personal budgets."
Layton will release a proposed budget in mid-July. Thats when we should get specifics about possible cuts. The public will get to speak out for or against those changes before council members vote on a final budget August 15th
Last year, Wichita implemented an early retirement program. 57 employees took advantage and will retire at the end of the year, saving the city about $4 million in wages.
Cuts expected as Wichita city council tackles budget