Belton’s city councilmembers are still trying to dig up a few more dollars of savings but went ahead and voted unanimously March 12 to approve the first reading of their proposed 2014 fiscal year budget.
The council has held of series of budget work sessions prior to Tuesday’s meeting in an effort to go through the proposed budget by line item and make financial trimmings where possible.
The original budget proposal, which was first released Feb. 5, asked the police department to cut nearly $270,000 and for the fire department to cut roughly $311,000 from their operating costs, in an effort to cut approximately $1 million in all from the general fund to maintain a 15 percent reserve fund.
Through a series of discussions, Ward 2 Councilman Justin Neff suggested that the city look at lowering the city’s reserve target mark to 12 percent, and that was the direction the council began reviewing.
Under the budget presented Tuesday, the reserve would stand at approximately 12.76 percent, City Manager Ronald Trivitt said.
“I know that it’s a difficult process for the city council, as it is for the city staff. We’re just working our way through it,” Trivitt said. “They’re still trying to get to the highest possible fund balance without cutting people.”
As part of the council’s gathering this week, a public hearing was held as an opportunity for residents to weigh in on the issue.
No one stepped to the floor, but Belton Police Chief James Person took time to thank the council for the time they have taken to work on the budget.
“I appreciate all that you have done and I hope you appreciate what staff has done,” Person said said. “Not that we have been negligent or flushed in other years, it has been a trying time. I hope we don’t have to go any further than we have, and that we take the year, as we go along, and monitor it and with any funds that come in, we keep the reserve in mind.”
Mayor Pro Tem Gary Lathrop and Ward 3 Councilman Everett Loughridge also shared a few remarks.
“I think it’s absolutely essential that we look at this every month,” Loughridge said.
Before final budget approval is granted, Trivitt said city leaders still have more work to do.
The council will hold yet another budget work session Thursday, March 14 to look for more savings. There’s also a budget work session planned for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 19.
If all goes accordingly, final budget approval may come as early during a special meeting March 19, or the next regular council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, before the Sunday, March 31 deadline.