Sarasota city commissioners seem to be pleased with the $162 million budget for 2010 placed before them this week.
A parade of department heads fed the commission their proposed budgets Tuesday and Wednesday, and few objections were raised.
But the biggest debate centered on something that may not take effect until the last month of the fiscal year — a change in trash collection.
The city is considering switching to a once-per-week collection schedule. Trash is currently collected twice per week.
Cost savings is the main reason for reducing pickup days. The city would save $300,000 per year.
Solid-waste managers told commissioners that few people need twice-per-week collection. They presented a study that shows only 64% of city residents put their trash cart out twice per week. Of those customers, only 2% have full cans.
The residents who need more than one trash cart will be able to buy a second one for $40 to $50. Commissioner Fredd Atkins said the people who need a second cart the most are those who can least afford it.
“Families with more than two kids will have the problem,” he said. “They’ll have an overflowing cart. It can create a health hazard.”
The change wouldn’t occur until September 2010, because that’s when the current solid-waste contract expires.
Bill Hallisey, public works director who oversees solid waste, detailed the savings his department would be enacting this year.
“We’re removing some of the management layer,” Hallisey said.
One management position was eliminated in the solid-waste department, because that employee is retiring.
The city is cutting about 30 positions total (see box). All are either vacant or currently held by a retiring employee. There are no layoffs planned in 2010.
Other department heads also told commissioners how they planned to deal with a $9 million shortfall in revenue in this budget.
The police department, which makes up the largest portion of the budget at 46.8%, has a 2010 budget of $25,539,867. That’s $2.1 million less than last year.
Police Chief Peter Abbott said the reduction was achieved because the department was able to collect $1.7 million in grants. Abbott is not eliminating any policepositions next year.
The streets and highways department is lowering its budget by $405,000, mainly by cutting three positions.
Parks and landscaping is cutting four positions and is trying to make its landscaping services more efficient by dividing the landscapers and assigning them to certain areas. The aim is to reduce their driving time.
When the engineering department was combined with neighborhood services this year, it vacated its office space in the City Hall annex. The facilities management department is trying to find a non-profit group to lease that space for revenue.
The city is also saving money by reducing subsidies by about $500,000. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall will receive $595,000, Ed Smith Stadium will receive $68,893, and municipal auditoriums will not receive any money.
To see a breakdown of the city budget cuts, please click on the link below.