For the first time in at least three years, Gering residents would see very modest increases in certain fees under the budget that will go before the public in a hearing September 9th.
Tuesday afternoon, department heads met with the city council, discussing a very spartan budget that includes no new capital improvement projects, the decision not to fill one opening each in the Police and Parks Departments, and no increase in electric rates for city residents and businesses.
Facing a $2.7 million dollar shortfall in the general fund, city administrators made a number of cuts, and then each department was asked to find a way to trim 10 percent more to balance the budget.
Under the spending blueprint, the storm water surcharge will go up by 25 cents a month, water rates would increase 3 cents per gallon with a five percent increase in the monthly base rate, and sanitation rates would rise by just over 75 cents per month.
Mayor Tony Kaufman notes it’s been quite a while since residents and businesses have seen any such rate increases. “We’ve really tried really hard over the last several few years to live within our means, continue to tighten our belt and live like everyone else does,” says Kaufman “Everyone lives on a fixed budget, and we need to start trying to do as much as we can. Less is more, but we (also) had to take a harder look at some of our departments and enterprises this year.
Other user-related charges will rise slightly as well, including fees at Monument Shadows Golf Course and RV space rentals at the Robidoux RV Park. The budget also includes a new two dollar per ticket surcharge to be added to Western Nebraska Pioneers tickets next season, pending further discussion with team ownership.
Police Chief George Holthus told council members it was a challenge for all departments, but the leaders of each felt no single department was more important than any other in meeting the budget goals.
Despite the tight budgetary situation, Kaufman notes there are projects that have already been planned, such as the quad-field baseball and softball complex, where funding is already in place which comes from sources other than those that pay for city operations. The mayor did note that the city’s property tax levy will be lower this year, which should result in some savings for taxpayers.