City Manager Andrea Gardner doesn’t want to create a panic.
However, she began the City Council’s meeting Tuesday with a grave assessment.
“I thought the budget situation was bad three years ago,” she said. “The fiscal year budget for 2014-2015 will be worse.”
Gardner said Cove is about $5 million over budget, and the budget committee was forced to make several cuts, unfunding several positions, and pushing back promised raises for certain public utilities — all told, they managed to cut $4 million of those dollars.
“There are several reasons for such a disparity between the revenue and expenditures,” she said. “It’s been a proverbial perfect storm as far as what we’ve been hit with.”
The town revenue hasn’t seen the spike in sales tax that they anticipated, while certain building permits haven’t met their budgeted expectations.
Even the Affordable Care Act can shoulder some of the blame.
“We’ve seen a 21 percent increase in health care cost since the inception of Obamacare,” she said.
“By law we have to offer at least one free health plan to our city employees and even those are not cheap.”
mother nature damage
Mother Nature deserves some credit as well, as the harsh winter damaged public property so funds had to be appropriated to repair damage.
In order to get closer to breaking even, the budget committee ceased any raises for city staff and the police department, while nearly $371,000 was cut from the department’s overall budget.
The fire department shed a total of $333,000 while Parks and Recreation cut $111,000.
The cuts may require Cove to cut its youth tackle football program because the money most likely won’t be available for the much-needed replacement equipment.
Joseph Pace, director of Cove’s Parks and Recreation, stood before the council Tuesday night and displayed the equipment the children would be using.
“These helmets are just not up to par. I will not continue sending our young athletes onto a football field with equipment like this,” he said. “If something is not done, we will not have tackle football. It’s not safe.”
Even road maintenance will take a hit as all street maintenance will be cut, but a transportation fee will be used instead.