City council to discuss deficit and budget resolution options

Douglas M. Kafury

Kent City Council will meet in a committee session at 7 p.m. today to discuss ways to fix the budget deficit problem.

Wayne A. Wilson, Ward 3 councilman and chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, said the problem is a budget deficit that is being balanced by a budget surplus fund called a fund balance.

Wilson said there is still $5 million in the fund balance, but they want to fix the problem now.

“We are not in dire straits today,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the city will have to draw $2 million out of the fund balance in 2006 to stabilize the city’s $30 million budget. He also said the projections for 2008 leave the fund balance at a $1 million dollar deficit.

Because the 2006 budget is already in place, council will look for ways to prevent the problem in the future, said Garret M. Ferrara, Ward 1 councilman and vice-chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee.

There are projects the city will be working on in the future. Wilson said the infrastructure in the city is aging, and the city also has plans to work on the Crain Avenue bridge, which will cost $3 million more than originally planned.

The meeting will be preceded by a budget presentation at 6 p.m. by Kent City Manager Dave Ruller. Ruller’s presentation will be an update of the budget for 2006, Wilson said.

Beth Oswitch, Ward 6 councilwoman, said this will be the first in a long series of meetings council will use to learn how to become more resourceful with tax revenues.

Ferrara said there will be people from the community with financial backgrounds working with council to help brainstorm ideas to fix the problem.

Council has adopted a more relaxed atmosphere for the meeting in order to create a more free flowing exchange of ideas, Wilson said.

Ferrara said he doesn’t expect any proposals to come out of the session immediately, but he said he assumes there will be proposals for ways to fix the problem in future sessions.

Ferrara said just cutting programs isn’t going to help the matter because it’s “people and personalities” that truly matter.

“It’s not as easy as just raising revenues or cutting expenses,” Ferrara said. “One affects the other.”

Wilson agreed, saying every department the city has is important to someone at any given time.

“We don’t have any fluff programs in the city that we could cut without having a negative impact on the city,” Wilson said.

Kent City Council meetings are held at the city council chambers, located at 217 E. Summit St., and the meetings are open to the public.

Contact public affairs reporter Douglas M. Kafury at [email protected]