Bellevue residents would see firefighter response times increase, the police department become less responsive to nuisance complaints and the snow removal slow under a budget proposal before the city council.
A variety of cuts, coupled with a property tax increase, are the basis of a $68 million budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Under the plan, 21 people would lose their jobs and an additional seven unfilled positions would be eliminated.
Property taxes would increase by 3 1/2 cents per $100 of valuation in the 2013-14 budget year, or about $50 for a $150,000 home.
Taxes would rise an additional cent, or $15 for the $150,000 home, the year after.
The city balanced its budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year by selling properties. But that resulted in a $5 million hole in next year’s budget that officials said they would fill with cuts and tax increases.
“This is by far the most difficult budget I’ve had to deal with,” City Administrator Dan Berlowitz told the council.
The city council now must decide whether to accept the proposal, make more cuts and roll back the tax increase, or restore some of the cuts and increase taxes even more.
Police Chief Mark Elbert and Fire Chief Perry Guido warned that the proposed cuts would affect public safety.
The city’s part-time paid firefighters are stretched thin, Guido said, and he had requested 12 full-time firefighter positions. To help pay for that additional cost, the city would close one of its four fire stations each day in a “rolling brown-out.”
It would take firefighters twice as long to arrive at an emergency in the affected area, Guido said.
In the police department, the proposal includes terminating nine people.
That would reduce the time police officers devote to nuisance calls and community policing, Elbert said. It also would take longer to process reports, an area in which Elbert said the department already lags.
Elbert said he already is working with a “skeleton crew” of sworn officers, and he can’t afford to pull any more officers off the streets.
To avoid cuts, the city would have to raise property taxes by about 2 more cents for each department.
A 2-cent increase translates to another $30 for a $150,000 home.
The budget proposal also calls for the city to contract for snow removal, which Berlowitz said could slow the clearing of streets.
Hours at Bellevue Public Library would be cut by eight or nine hours a week, and pools would be open for fewer hours a day and for a shorter period.
Various other recreation programs would be shortened or eliminated.
Council members encouraged people to come to the meeting or to call city officials with thoughts and suggestions.
The budget is scheduled to be approved Sept. 9 and then is sent to the state auditor for approval.