Waterloo debates how to slash 2012 budget - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo debates how to slash 2012 budget

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- City Leaders are debating how to trim next year's budget by more than $2 million -- or, if it should be cut that drastically. This afternoon, council members held their third consecutive meeting to consider every alternative to significantly raising the city's property tax. Most council members agree, the property tax increase for fiscal year 2012 should not be more than 4%. The current budget proposal indicates a hike of more than 8%.

"It's not going to be business as usual in Waterloo. It's going to be rough," said City Council member Ron Welper.

Friday afternoon, city leaders and department heads laid down their bottom line.

"To tell them, in a dramatic fashion, what that reduction is going to mean to their department," Mayor Buck Clark explained.

The mayor said "No" to some options -- including closing the clerks office two days a week, and eliminating several street and traffic jobs.

It appears many of the cuts would come from Waterloo's culture and arts centers. They're proposing to closing Sunday and Monday night, reduce staff hours, and increase admission to the Phelps Youth Pavilion.

Potential cuts at the library may mean eliminating a security guard, closing the doors a few hours a week, and buying fewer materials, like books and DVD's.

They're also considering saving money by not planting flowers or mowing less often in parks and golf courses. But all these cuts only get the property tax hike down to 5%.

To go below 4%, the city can't fill several fire and police officer vacancies and may lay off as many as six more people.

Some council members don't believe the outcome is worth the cost.

"We can't do this. We're going backwards. Sure, it's another $60 or so onto our tax bill. But the alternative is worse. Who's going to want to live in a town that looks like it's dying?" Welper commented.

"I cannot disagree with anyone who doesn't want their taxes to go up. I agree, I don't want to pay higher taxes. But there's a cost to running a city. There's a cost to filling up your car with gas and you have to balance that with what's best," said Clark.

The city is also considering furloughs to reduce the budget, however, they may not legally be able to go forward with this plan because of union contracts.

The council will meet again on Wednesday, March 2nd at 3:00 to come up with a final budget proposal. The public hearing is scheduled for March 7th.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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