Dubuque tries tackling $2.9 mil. budget shortfall - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque tries tackling $2.9 mil. budget shortfall

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The city of Dubuque faces a $2.9 million budget shortfall in this current fiscal year. To solve it, they have to make some cuts.

Revenues from a local option sales tax and the Dubuque Racing Association lease payments were lower than originally projected, along with a handful of unexpected dips in other areas.

"In the case of the Dubuque Racing Association, this winter has severely impacted gaming all across eastern Iowa, and so their revenues are down," Dubuque city manager Mike Van Milligen said. "Our lease payment's based on one percent of coin-in, so when coin-in is down, our lease payment's down."

Van Milligen compiled a list of capital improvement projects budgeted for this fiscal year that city council members can decide to cut in order to help make up the shortfall.

Some of the projects on the chopping block, such as "street light replacement" ($15,000) or "surge and grounding improvements" ($5,000), haven't generated much buzz from the average citizen. Others, however, are closer to some people's hearts.

Robin MacFarlane and her dog Diva would love to see a second, bigger pet park built in Dubuque.

"The one that we have on Grandview is a nice park, but it is very small," MacFarlane said Tuesday at her Dubuque business That's My Dog. "It doesn't really suit our population and the amount of dogs we have in the community, so we need that second area."

She's been leading the push to get that second pet park, but it's now on that list of cuts.

"The pet park for $94,000 is on the chopping block," city council member Karla Braig read off the list. "The Port of Dubuque outdoor plaza is on the chopping block, for $108,000."

The list of 30 capital improvement projects totals $2.24 million, which would be money to help bridge the $2.9 million general fund deficit if all those projects were axed.

$2.9 million, however, is just a fraction of the city's overall budget.

"Our budget for this current fiscal year is $170 million," Van Milligen said, "so it's less than two percent of our budget."

While the proposed cuts, such as a new skate park, may disappoint some people, Braig said she thinks the wide-ranging list is fair.

"I think that the city manger was very intentional about the things that he was considering cutting, so that all the cuts wouldn't come from one department or too much from one place," Braig said.

The council won't vote on the cuts until April.

Also to address the anticipated shortfall, Van Milligen has already imposed a hiring freeze for all open city positions. The exceptions are police officers and fire fighters, as well as positions in any department that's self-funding, such as the parking and water departments.

KWWL received a couple of calls, pointing out the city manager got a raise this year. He did, but so did all of the other city employees: a 2.5 percent raise, after several years of no raises due to a chilly economy. Van Milligen's base pay went from $203,816 to $208,911, a raise of exactly 2.5 percent.

The fiscal year 2014 city-wide raised had a general fund impact of $1,131,736.

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