Roswell settles 2011 budget dispute with compromise

Three weeks after passing its 2011 budget, the Roswell City Council voted Monday night to trim $113,000 from the new spending plan.

The move was in response to a threatened veto from Mayor Jere Wood, who argued the council was spending more in operating the city than it was taking in.

"I told council that if they would reduce the budget by $112,000 and balance [it], then I would not veto it," Wood said.

The amended $100 million budget reflected a reduction in cost estimates in several departments. Spending estimates for gasoline were lowered by $53,000 in the police, parks and fire departments. The staff also lowered spending estimates for sanitation services at parks and buildings by $60,000.

Wood said the reduced estimates were the result of detailed analysis by city staff, and he felt confident the new numbers were valid.

Monday's action ended a short feud between the mayor and council over the 2011 spending plan. It did not eliminate the mayor's concern with the city's shrinking reserves.

Resident Lee Fleck offered his concerns with the budget, pointing out the city has spent more than it takes in since 2008. The city's budget analysis showed the available reserve balance had fallen from $26.4 million in 2008 to $14.4 million in 2010. Finance department analysis predicted the city's reserves will be depleted by 2015.

"When that happens, you'll either have to raise taxes, have a bond issue or institute major cutbacks in service," Fleck said.

Wood's original proposed budget of $93 million trimmed $430,000 by eliminating 10 positions from the Department of Community Development. However, the council voted unanimously June 21 to restore six of those jobs and cut back on equipment replacement to help compensate the operating fund. The council also eliminated a part-time position in the mayor's office.

More significantly, the council budget added $7 million in capital spending above the mayor's recommendation. Among those additions were $3.3 million for a computer network management system and $1.8 million for a citywide resurfacing program.