No vote occurred Monday during a four-hour-plus meeting, but commissioners agreed on a working model calling for numerous reductions to balance an estimated $16.3 million everyday operating budget in 2014.
In total, city officials discovered about $800,000 to either gut or shift from other accounts to help balance the budget.
Among some of the proposals aiming to offset some of this red ink:
• Laying off four full-time firefighters.
• Taking $400,000 from a fire equipment and vehicle fund funded mostly through ambulance billing. In past years, city officials took $150,000 annually from the account.
• Rescinding and scaling back on several employee “bonuses,” such as increased police payouts for physical fitness.
Officials still must find about $300,000 to cut before balancing the budget, funding services such as police and fire. Municipal governments, such as Sandusky, must have a balanced budget, where income levels either match or exceed expenses, by March.
To get back in the black, officials could dip into the savings account, totaling $4.2 million today.
But officials need a robust savings account, ideally 25 percent of their total budget, to help obtain lower interest rates for construction projects and to bail themselves out of any finance-zapping emergencies.
Ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. ordered city manager Nicole Ard to finalize a budget draft proposal, which must include $1.1 million in cuts, by early February. This leaves about a month for community members to voice their support or displeasure with various reductions.
“The ongoing nature of these budget discussions is affecting the morale of the city employees, and we need to bring this to a conclusion,” Murray said. “We need to let people know where it stands”
A $1.1 million shortfall derives from several factors. The two primary reasons, however, involve Sandusky obtaining less money from the state, along with a $500,000 federal grant employing six fulltime firefighter positions that expired in December.
City officials didn’t provide specific figures at Monday’s meeting.
A Register story slated for the near future will include this information.
Watch video from Monday's City Commission meeting in the player below