The City's Budget Shortfall is $131.1 Million, So Far. Forthcoming: Service Cuts, City Hall Layoffs and Fee Increases. And, a Tax Hike?

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Maybe you heard -- the city's facing a $131.1-million budget shortfall, not as bad as last year's $190 mil but, still, bad enough to merit deep cuts once more. And while several council members, among them Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, have said a tax hike may be necessary to keep from gutting city services, the mayor's still resistant to the idea. Instead, this year's budget brouhaha seems to be a sequel to last year's, when council members whispered "tax hike" while City Manager Mary Suhm cooed "fee increase."

Here's Suhm's latest "snapshot" presented to the council Friday night -- a lethal combination of declining revenues (sales and property taxes, franchise fees, etc.) suggested expenditure reductions (everything from City Hall layoffs to shutting down the downtown library two days a week -- nothing's spared). Wednesday's council briefing has all the details -- Suhm's so-called "ranking sheets," broken down into six categories (Public Safety; Economic Vibrancy; Clean, Healthy Environment; Culture, Arts and Recreation; Educational Enhancements; and E3 Government). Grim reading on a Sunday morning.

Suhm, though, does have some suggestions for making up lost money -- everything from increasing existing fees and implementing new ones and hiking taxes (on, among other things, coin-operated machines, which don't vote) to cutting city workers' pay to putting ads on the city's Web site to outsourcing the auto pound and code compliance to selling Elgin B. Robertson Park to ... oh, yes, there it is, on Page 11: "Increase Property Tax -- Increase tax rate from 74.79¢ per $100 valuation to 75.79¢ would have $17.02 per year tax impact on average residential home with homestead exemption."

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