FINDLAY - With income tax revenues coming in about 22 percent behind last year, the city of Findlay is bracing for a less-than-happy new year.
"We're about $5.2 million off, which is a fifth of our budget. So we told our department heads to try to cut back whenever possible - cut energy, cut fuel costs, cut back on everything," Mayor Pete Sehnert said.
He also instituted an immediate freeze on hiring, promotions, and spending, and asked department heads to submit 2009 budget proposals that reflected 22 percent reductions.
"We've got to get an idea of what impact a 22 percent cut would have on us," Mr. Sehnert said. "We're not used to having this kind of problem, but it's not just us. Everyone's having problems."
With personnel costs consuming about 80 percent of the city's $25 million annual operating budget, the mayor said he did not expect cost reductions to come without layoffs, though it's too soon to tell.
The proposed departmental budgets he's looked at were "pretty drastic."
"The worst-case scenario with the fire department would be closing two stations, laying off 18 firemen, and not rehiring seven firemen [lost] through attrition," Mr. Sehnert said.
The mayor, a retired police officer, said he could not recall any layoffs of safety personnel since he was hired by the city in 1980. "As long as I've been here, I haven't seen a police or fireman laid off, and I don't want to see that happen," he said.
While one answer could be to increase the city's 1 percent income tax to 1.25 percent, he said, he would not want to do that before demonstrating to the public what the cut in services and staff would amount to and how it would affect Findlay.