The catch phrase coming from city officials who presented Bloomington’s 2013 budget is “Surprisingly Strong.” It’s surprising because as health care costs and other expenditures outpace revenues, the city has planned a budget that maintains a healthy general fund and cash reserves.
City Controller Mike Trexler says city leaders knew changes needed to be made when they sat down to create next year’s budget.
“We started working on this budget last November,” he says. “Usually we wait to start until February or March. But last year we really started to identify and started to get a grasp on some of the issues we were going to be facing in the future and had some pretty grim projections.”
Trexler says if serious cuts were not made, the city’s cash reserves would have been unsustainable – especially as mayor Mark Kruzan called for a beefing up of the rainy day fund in his state of the city address. So the city came up with an early retirement/separation plan which saved more than $1 million. But to do that, the city lost 29 employees. 13 of those positions will not be re-filled.
The 2013 budget shrinks non-personnel categories by six percent but looks to fund more bike paths and construction of the Switchyard park along the B-Line Trail.
The real question now is what happens in the long term. The city may have created a budget that cut costs next year but Trexler says personnel costs are still worrisome moving forward.
“It doesn’t take a lot of capital to produce a lot of the programs and services that we do but it does take work, it does take people,” Trexler says. “And it’s going to be very difficult knowing that what we need to reduce is Category 1, is people and trying to do that without having too big of an impact on services.”
Several city offices have had to merge departments as they cope with fewer personnel.