On a first reading, the Bowling Green City Commission approved Tuesday a coronavirus-impacted budget that calls for neither new taxes nor new debt, as well as cuts to some previous spending levels.
The economic slowdown caused by the pandemic will mean an estimated revenue decline of about $12 million less than the current fiscal year, from $122.1 million to $110.3 million in FY 2021. The cuts include about a 50 percent reduction on spending in areas such as sidewalk building, road paving and stormwater management. Overall, the budget calls for city expenditures to decrease from $124.6 million to $114.2 million.
City Manager Jeff Meisel, the city’s former chief financial officer, said during Tuesday’s teleconferenced meeting that this was “the hardest budget ever. You know where you want to go, but you don’t know how to get there.”
He noted that the budget is based on forecasts “and all this can be adjusted later.” The budget was presented later in the fiscal year than usual in an effort to get as accurate a revenue forecast as possible.
“We feel this is a good starting point,” Meisel said.
One bright spot for the budget is the continued growth in property taxes in the city. That revenue is expected to increase about 8 percent, from $16.3 million to $17.7 million. The city’s main revenue source, an occupational tax, is expected to see a projected 12 percent decrease – from $50 million to $44 million.
The city has not furloughed any employees, but the budget calls for merit raises to be suspended for the coming year, along with cuts in travel and not filling some part-time positions. Eligible city employees will get a 2.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment.
The second and final vote on the budget is slated for a special-called meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, to also be held via teleconference and streamed on the city’s government access Channel 4.
– Follow News Director Wes Swietek on Twitter @BGDNgovtbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.