City Budget Investigation: Possible Areas For Cut Backs - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/9/06

City Budget Investigation: Possible Areas For Cut Backs

Source: City of Lubbock Channel 2 Source: City of Lubbock Channel 2

In an effort to save money on gas, changes are in store for the way the city uses its staff vehicles. The changes come as NewsChannel 11 continues its three-day investigation into the city budget.

We've learned the city spent $2.2 million gassing up its vehicles last year. So now, the proposed budget calls for an expected $651,000 increase in gas costs this next year. Starting Monday, any city employee who is non-police or upper management cannot take their city cars home, that includes code enforcement and health department vehicles. But with a proposed three-cent tax rate increase, NewsChannel 11 is still asking questions tonight.

NewsChannel 11's Jennifer Vogel has been researching the city budget for the past three days, and says city council members and city staff have been meeting relentlessly over the past week trying to get answers for certain areas of city spending.

Since our investigation started Monday, we've received a number of e-mails from viewers telling us where they think cuts can be made. Tonight, we show you which areas sources tell us have been the hot topic in closed door debates about where our city can cut. 

First we start with healthcare. City Manager Lee Ann Dumbauld says healthcare costs could increase about 20 percent in the next fiscal year, totaling $2.29 million more in the budget. Our question, 'why can't the city find more competitive rates?'  The answer, the city has already hired an insurance advisor who is looking at different plans with better rates, hopefully by November.  That cut alone could save money.

Next, the city has 49 open jobs available to-date, not including police and fire. And even though those jobs are not filled yet, those extra salaries and benefits are included in the proposed budget. If the city waits to hire on a trial-by-trial basis, that is another cost that could be saved.

In the budget, the city is allocating a three-percent cost of living raise for all city employees, so for someone making $30,000, that is $900 extra a year. But if you take that rate and compare it to the City Manager's $225,000 a year salary, it totals $6,750 extra a year. An expense that the city might discuss.

Another area that could be cut is at the city cemetery. $200,000 is being set aside for upgrades including a mosileum at the cemetery. City staff says the old building needs to be bigger and needs to be cleared of asbestos.

Another thing to take into consideration is that all future revenue sources are conservative. For example, in next year's budget, the hotel/motel tax is $80,000 less than what it was this year.

Again, city council is set to discuss and consider setting the tax-rate at its meeting Thursday, but it won't be a final decision, at least two public hearings must be held first. We'll be at that meeting and bring you the latest developments Thursday.

8/8/06
Police & Fire Departments Answer Questions About Budget Cuts
In less than 48-hours, Lubbock city council members will discuss a proposed three-cent tax rate increase. So tonight, NewsChannel 11's Jennifer Vogel took some viewer questions to the city's police and fire departments to see if they feel any cuts can be made.
8/7/06
The Reason Behind A Possible Tax Hike In Lubbock
NewsChannel 11 is learns where the money would be going, should the city increase its tax rate.  NewsChannel 11's Jennifer Vogel obtained a copy of the city's budget which will be discussed at the city council meeting this Thursday. She explains why taxes might go up.

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