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Proposed Batavia budget balanced, but challenging

Updated: January 1, 2013 6:13AM

Batavia’s 2013 proposed budget is balanced, but officials said staff cuts and project schedules still present significant challenges.

Batavia’s general fund allocates $76.4 million in operations and $8.6 million in reserves. There are no new general revenues proposed; the city is in the second year of 3-percent and 8-percent residential customer water and sewer rate increases, respectively. The budget also calls for a 2 percent wage increase for non-union employees. There are no additions to staff, officials said.

Batavia Finance Director Peggy Colby said city staff has been providing the same level of service even though there have been significant staff reductions since 2009, including layoffs, early retirements and unfilled vacancies. The city did fill three vacancies and a part-time position mid-year.

“There were requests for increases to staff that were not included in the budget recommendation, not necessarily because they were not warranted, but because there is insufficient funding to provide for the positions,” Colby said.

The proposed budget is $8.1 million more than the previous year’s spending due to improvements in project funds and utility funds, primarily the city’s electric utility, she said.

Colby said over the last four years the city has passed deficit budgets, but three of those years ended with a surplus because of decisions to delay capital projects, cutbacks or unexpected vacancies. She said a proposed small surplus was the result of cuts in expenditure requests from departments, specifically for personnel, software and hardware, as well as in the city’s forestry program.

Colby said changes in costs may require an additional year or more to complete the program for removal of all ash trees in Batavia.

A request in the street department for an additional worker to address maintenance required for improvements on River Street was not funded. The city is addressing the maintenance through seasonal help and some contractual assistance. The police department’s request for two full time positions and a part-time position were also not funded in the 2013 budget, but staff is reviewing alternatives.

Colby said new revenues added in 2012 made it possible to present a balanced budget for 2013, along with continued restraints on budgetary requests for additional staff.

“The demands that have been placed on our most valuable asset, our employees, have been great and they should be acknowledged for the level of work not only that they continue to perform but also continue to take on,” Colby said.

The 2013 budget is expected to be approved in December.

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