Council discusses budget

Erin Hopkins

Members talk about possible cuts for this year

Kent City Council members heard budget breakdowns for this year from directors of various city departments at the council’s meeting last night.

City officials were asked to analyze their budgets and present possible cuts to council, along with the positive and negative aspects of such cuts. No decisions were made last night, as it was an information session. Public discussion will be held at a later date.

“As you might imagine, (downsizing) is a sensitive topic,” City Manager Dave Ruller said. “Tonight, there are no recommendations, there are no actions, just presentations. If cuts need to be part of it, you can get a flavor for what may be possible. This is all about dollars and cents, and a community is more than dollars and cents.”

Finance director Barb Rissland was first to present her budget cuts.

“We are just asking, what are the essential services your department provides?” Rissland said. “Can we utilize technology instead of manpower? Can we share equipment or personnel? Is there a way to increase efficiency? Look at the position, not the person in it.”

One of Rissland’s suggestions was to combine the positions of systems analyst and administrative assistant. Both positions are currently vacant, and Rissland felt it would be more cost-effective if one person handled both jobs.

Safety Director Bill Lillich presented the fire, police and safety budgets. He proposed reducing alarm response, or the number of fire trucks, during non-threatening hours and locations — a move that could save about $22,500.

“The burned popcorn runs (to residence halls), which happen quite frequently, are costing us money,” Lillich said, referring to non-threatening fire alarms that draw a number of fire trucks to the Kent State campus.

For the police budget cuts, Lillich proposed eliminating the bike patrol, which he said is seldom used. That cut would free up about $1,000.

He also suggested eliminating the safety director position altogether, which he said could cause a possible breakdown in the way services are provided.

A final decision on budget cuts will not be made until July or August. In addition to public discussions at council meetings, a motion was made to set up informal questionnaires and polls during the summer, which would give residents a chance to voice their opinion. Ruller agreed to work out a draft for such a provision.

Contact public affairs reporter Erin Hopkins at [email protected].