City of Lander still looking at budget cuts for FY 20-21

The Lander City Council will meet in regular session Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. The Councilors and Mayor were socially distanced in this photo from earlier this month. photo by Ernie Over

Passage of the economic development tax on August 18th could help, councilors said.

The Lander City Council took another deep look into its 2020-21 Fiscal Year Budget of $5,492,922 at a work session Tuesday night. Mayor Monte Richardson said projected revenue for the budget is still problematic, and he wanted to propose some adjustments to avoid further cuts come January 2021.

One of the ways the mayor suggested to cut the general fund budget was to take salaries for water treatment plant employees out of the General Fund and instead pay them from the city’s Enterprise Fund, which is self-generating. The mayor also said if needed, streets employees could be used out there. Council member Missy White noted that if work was diverted from other parts of the city to the water treatment plant, some other city services might be reduced. “We have to be realistic, there may be a reduction in some services,” she said.

Richardson said he had also consulted with Police Chief Thomas Stroyer on possible cuts in the LPD. Stroyer said one position at the police department for a senior officer would be eliminated this September freeing up $106,000, and that two other senior officers would be retiring. If those officers are replaced with entry-level paid positions, there would savings there, too. Shroyer said the LPD would need a reorganization in a month or so with the personnel changes. “We can still provide services and functions, but there would be an added burden on the other members of the department,” he said.

The Mayor said with all the position changes and how they are funded, the city could save about $400,000 in its general fund budget. “If we don’t do this now, we could be faced with Christmas time cuts, and that is no fun.”

Richardson said the city’s supplemental funding from the state could only be guaranteed for the next six months. “Senator Cale Case told me we’d get the first half of the distribution, but not the second half,” he said. The senator told the mayor the state still has to cut $500 million this year and probably $750 million next year.” Richardson said the city “has to be ready for what’s coming down the pipe.”

White asked the mayor what impact the passage of the half-cent economic tax would be on the city, if the tax is passed in August 18th balloting.

It was generally agreed the half-cent tax, if approved, would help make up for some of the state funding that is being cut. “For one, the $100,000 in our budget for air service could go back to the general fund,” said Councilor Cade Maestas. Charri Lara, city treasurer, said funding could also restore cuts to the chamber of commerce and the golf course. Maestas said the city should take the long view and look at infrastructure needs. “It is much nicer to have locally controlled funds that we can use rather than state funds,” he said

The proposals will come up again for action at the next regular Lander City Council meeting.