GJ may have to cut services

City considers suspending programs such as Spring Clean-up

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Grand Junction city leaders are acknowledging for the first time that they may have to cut services next year because sales-tax revenue continues to slide and a hiring freeze enacted at the beginning of this year will carry over into 2010.

City Manager Laurie Kadrich told City Council members Wednesday night that annual programs such as Spring Clean-up and chip-seal road maintenance may be suspended for a year to help save money. Financial Operations Manager Jodi Romero told The Daily Sentinel on Thursday that residents may see shorter business hours in some city departments, and other service reductions are possible.

“We’ll try to find those that are least painful to the community,” Romero said.

The anticipated 2010 cuts come on top of $6 million the city trimmed off this year’s budget at the beginning of the year in response to the recession. City officials expect to realize another $1.5 million in capital project and personnel savings this year.

Four months ago, Kadrich said she hoped to avoid slicing into popular programs such as Spring Clean-up, a two-week initiative that allows city residents to dispose of larger trash items at no additional charge. But it appears drastic revenue reductions may not allow that to happen.

City sales- and use-tax receipts through June were off 14 percent, from $29.2 million in 2008 to $25 million this year. That decline is more precipitous than the national rate of 9.6 percent, something Romero called “unprecedented.”

In addition, the city has earned only 33 percent of its annual projected revenue to date. By now it would normally have received 49 percent of its revenue, according to Kadrich.

The revenue shortfall is expected to continue next year. City officials predict severance and mineral leasing revenues will be only 20 percent of this year’s levels, due to reduced receipts and changes in the state budget and the revenue-allocation formula. Fees from local construction and development activity, meanwhile, have dropped to 2002 levels.

A hiring freeze instituted in the first quarter of the year has left the city 25 employees short of the 701 full-time workers departments originally were authorized to employ. The city has tried to fill the vacancies created by resignations and retirements by shifting employees internally. Most
of the transferred employees have moved into the police and fire departments, where city leaders figure they can least afford to have employee shortages.

Department heads are comparing staffing levels against workloads to determine whether employees can be transferred into departments with greater needs.

Councilman Tom Kenyon, a broker with Bray Real Estate, said his industry doesn’t foresee a quick economic recovery locally.

“We hope that it comes, but we don’t see it. It’s not there,” he said. “The banks, the lending policies, people are cutting down on discretionary spending, cutting down on development projects. We don’t think it’s going to turn around real quick.”


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