Mayor Gabriel J. Campana's wish list in his proposed 2013 budget might get smaller tonight, according to several city sources.
City Council tackles Campana's proposed $21.1 million - in what several members of council expect to be an exchange of ideas that may evolve into a healthy debate on tax increases and wish lists.
"There may be some discussion about potential changes that different people on council might want to make, nothing drastic, but tweaking here and there," said Councilman Randall J. Allison of the first reading of Campana's 2013 budget proposal. The meeting follows two budget work sessions a week ago.
Allison expects further discussion on specific areas in Campana's proposed budget, which calls for a 0.85-mill real estate tax hike and does not fill three police officer vacancies and two positions in the Streets and Parks Department.
The proposed tax millage equates to $85 more per year for a household assessed at $100,000, but Council President Bill Hall has hinted the amount of millage Campana has proposed might not be enough to deal with the city's ongoing financial problems.
Controller Margaret "Peg" Woodring said the city faces an additional $1.5 million in costs next year, the majority of it associated with paying for pensions and health care benefits.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: City Council's first reading of Mayor Gabriel J. Campana's $21.1 million budget
WHEN: 7:30 tonight
WHERE: City Hall
Campana said the problem is that a lack of concessions by police, fire and other unions representing 218 city employees has created an unsustainable formula of tax increases each year that will drive business out of the city and residents to seek other places to live. He also blamed the high cost of recertifying the flood-control levee, an unfunded federal mandate with a budget next year of $330,000.
City Finance Director William E. Nichols Jr. agreed with Campana and said raising taxes isn't a desired or sufficient enough plan to keep up with the growing expenses, especially when the pension fund went from $2.1 million to $3.8 million.
Campana said if council does not approve his proposed budget, the city could face an even higher tax millage that could be as much as 3 mills.