BRENTWOOD — City leaders sliced $2.5 million more from this year's budget on Tuesday, and although many residents won't notice the difference the action will cost some teens their fun.
In reluctantly agreeing to further reduce general fund expenses, the City Council eliminated financial support for an after-school recreation program that the Police Activities League has provided.
The nonprofit organizes a wide variety of sports activities and other events with the goal of keeping young people out of trouble as well as helping them forge positive relationships with law enforcement.
One of those is "After the Bell," a service that PAL no longer can afford to help the city fund. But with a freeze on three positions in its parks and recreation department, the city doesn't have the money or manpower to assume more of the cost of running this particular outreach.
"We are a little disappointed," said PAL board member Greg Robinson, who wondered whether juvenile crime now might increase during that period after school when some at-risk adolescents lack adult supervision.
The City Council's decision also affects the hundreds of youth and adults who sign up for sports and one-time events that the parks and recreation department has provided until now.
Two of its vacant positions represent a savings of nearly $203,000 in salary and benefits, but there aren't enough employees left to continue running activities such as flag football, basketball, and youth golf. City officials hope that service clubs or similar groups will step in to take over the task.
Councilman Brandon Richey questioned why the city would pay $176,000 a year to keep Brentwood's county-run library open 56 hours a week.
"That money could be used for the parks and recreation programs we're looking at eliminating," he said, noting that it's the county's responsibility to fund the branch.
"I can't see the county stepping up to the plate," responded Mayor Bob Taylor.
Councilman Chris Becnel acknowledged Richey's frustration, but said that eliminating the subsidy would force the library to scale back its hours to 29 per week.
That would create a hardship for commuters who can't get to the library during the day as well as for those who can't afford to buy books, said Becnel and Councilman Bob Brockman.
In the end the City Council voted 4-to-1 to revise the budget, with Richey dissenting.
The reduction in general fund expenses marks the second time that the City Council has pared Brentwood's budget in response to declining property tax revenue as well as income from fees related to home construction such as building permits, plan checks and inspections.
The city typically updates its spending plan every year in January, but the changes this time around are larger than usual, said Business Services Manager Kerry Breen.
Although Brentwood's budget includes a number of smaller funds earmarked for specific uses, the general fund pays for most of the city's expenses, including police services, street maintenance and the salaries and benefits of most employees.
In June, councilmembers whacked $9.2 million from both the 2007-08 budget and the current spending plan.
The move cost 11 full-time employees their jobs, the layoffs widely believed to be the first since Brentwood became a city 60 years ago.
Far more significant than the job losses, however, were the savings the city realized through attrition and not filling positions that were already vacant, he said.
Personnel expenses accounted for $4 million of the $9.2 million in cuts.
The city also is relying on attrition and freezing most open positions to achieve Tuesday's budget reductions, although Breen said there won't be any layoffs this time.
Although Brentwood's Police Department remains unaffected, the city in recent months has become even more cautious about hiring for other departments and now isn't filling openings until it's absolutely necessary, he said.
The reductions aren't simply a matter of updating a ledger sheet, however; the penny-pinching is changing the way the city does business.
It has canceled contracts with some companies, some of which provided services such as checking developers' building plans that the city no longer needs with the slowdown of construction, Breen said.
Employees now are using black-and-white printers to copy draft documents or those for internal use instead of running off far more costly color duplicates, he added.
The holiday party the city usually holds for all departments was canceled this year, and most employees no longer can expect it to pick up the tab for optional off-site training and related travel expenses.
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