City of Dodge City administration and staff are taking steps to adjust the budget in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Substantial cuts will need to be made to account for the tremendous shortfall in expected revenues.
The loss is estimated at nearly $3 million dollars from the 2020 budget. Line items such as Sales Tax, Property Tax, Interest, Transient Guest Tax and Franchise Fees are expected to lag substantially behind the budgeted amounts. The proposed budget adjustments were discussed at a City Commission work session on April 20, 2020.
“Even with all of the cuts on the expenditure side of the ledger, we were still short over $700,000 in cuts that needed to be made,” City Manager Cherise Tieben said. “Because we function on very tight operational budgets already, hard decisions had to be made Monday night at the City Commission meeting.”
During the meeting, the Commission directed administration and staff on how to prioritize six additional levels of cuts to be made. The first priority amongst the additional cuts was the elimination of the Commission salaries for 2020, followed by a 25 percent reduction in the general fund cash reserves. After the first two levels, a one-time incentive increase to the City’s early retirement program for those eligible to retire in 2020 was approved.
Most of the positions vacated by retirement will not be filled again for at least a year, and other positions will have to absorb the responsibilities through prioritizing work. The final three levels of cuts proposed included the elimination of four positions, possible six to eight-week furloughs, and finally, no annual longevity bonuses to employees.
Tieben said that she anticipates the first four levels of additional cuts to be sufficient in relieving the budget pressure. This means that furloughs will not happen yet but will be considered if necessary.
“Understand that these decisions were not made lightly. It was a very painful process. In fact, we were hoping to be able to make some of these employee decisions in the future simply through attrition,” Tieben said. “However, COVID-19 has escalated the necessity of this decision.”
During the discussion of the additional efforts to cut the budget and the elimination of the Commissioner salaries, Commissioner Kent Smoll stated, “personally, I think we ought to give up our salaries during this time.”
“I don’t care, you know, if its two weeks, six weeks, three months,” Smoll said. “We didn’t get in this for the pay. We got into this because we really appreciate the City. There’s not going to be much savings, I understand. But it’s partly the principle. We are asking employees to give things up; I want to give up that.”
Commissioner Brian Delzeit echoed Smoll’s statement saying, “We are looking at elimination positions, and I’m not going to eliminate any position as long as I’m taking a salary.”