In an effort to combat the $1.8 million shortfall in the 2009 budget, the city of Arnold will no longer offer free trash service. Free trash had been provided since 2001, a campaign pledge by the former administration.
The trash service cost the city about $900,000 a year. Rather than pass the full amount on to the residents, the city will charge $7 per month of the $11.40 it pays per residence.
“This service was offered as a campaign promise to our community at no-charge when Arnold was at its most prosperous time,” wrote Mayor Ron Counts in a prepared statement at the Aug. 20 City Council meeting. “Arnold was flush with revenues and could afford to pay for our residents’ trash. Now it is clear the $900,000 trash contract is putting critical services like police protection, roadwork and other public improvements in jeopardy.”
Counts found out shortly after taking office that city staff had overstated nearly $1.5 million in revenue for the 2010 budget. Along with that, other forms of revenue slowed down. Even with the new redevelopment projects underway, including Arnold Crossroads, Arnold Commons and Water Tower Place, sales tax were relatively flat.
Counts believes the former administration should have confronted this financial stalemate last year. He and city staff have had to meet countless hours to balance the budget. In May, the city hired accounting firm Daniel Jones & Associates to review the budgeting process and accounting procedures. A report has not yet been presented to the council.
Although no employees were cut, the city will downsize somewhat through attrition and early retirement.
“The city’s new retirement program will entice employees to retire and we will leave those positions vacant,” Counts said.
Instead of the annual cost of living adjustment, employees will be offered two extra personal days.
Although many of the roads, vehicles and equipment are in need of replacement, delayed purchases and deferred maintenance will also be considered, Counts said. The budget will only fund those projects that are considered “a point of emergency, critical need or safety related.”
Counts pointed out that two federal and state grants for roadway improvements were granted for the intersection of Highway 141 and Astra Way, to help alleviate congestion. Although a local match of 20 percent is required, funds will come from the Arnold Retail Corridor TDD (Transportation Development District.)
Arnold is set to receive $473,499 from the settlement of the AT&T landline lawsuit.
One-time revenues and city reserves of approximately $182,000 may also be tapped to balance the budget.
“It is unbelievable to me that we were able to get together and balance the budget without cutting jobs and service to the city,” Counts said.
The mayor has put together a budget committee consisting of three councilmen to monitor and review the city budget on a regular basis.
“We will spend within our means and our budget will be followed to avert more serious cuts to programs or people,” Counts said.