More bud­get changes pro­posed

New spend­ing plan in­cludes restora­tion of city pay cuts

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - Michael Buet­tner Staff Writer

PETERS­BURG — Con­sul­tants work­ing for the city have crafted a re­vised op­er­at­ing bud­get for the cur­rent year that they say will have some­thing no Peters­burg bud­get has had for at least 10 years – bal­ance.

At a City Coun­cil work ses­sion this week, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Robert Bobb Group pre­sented their pro­posal for a sec­ond amended ver­sion of the city’s 2016-17 gen­eral fund bud­get, in­cor­po­rat­ing new in­for­ma­tion that has come to light since coun­cil mem­bers in Septem­ber ap­proved ma­jor re­vi­sions to the bud­get that was orig­i­nally passed last spring.

Head­lin­ing the new pro­posal: roll­back of a 10 per­cent pay cut put in place in Au­gust after a team of ex­perts from the state Depart­ment of Fi­nance and two pri­vate fi­nan­cial firms warned City Coun­cil that the city’s fi­nances were in ma­jor dis­ar­ray, with a roughly $12 mil­lion deficit built into the 2016-17 bud­get and nearly $19 mil­lion in un­paid bills re­main­ing from the 2015-16 fis­cal year.

Pub­lic safety work­ers will see their pay re­stored first, ac­cord­ing to the Bobb Group’s in­terim city man­ager, Tom Tyrrell. “In our pro­posal, the 10 per­cent pay cut of po­lice, fire and emer­gency man­age­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices em­ploy­ees will be re­stored with the April 7, 2017 pay­roll, and the re­main­der of the city em­ployee pay cuts are sched­uled to be re­stored no later than July 1, 2017,” Tyrrell said.

Tyrrell and an­other Bobb Group em­ployee, In­terim As­sis­tant City Man­ager and Fi­nance Di­rec­tor Nelsie Birch, said the orig­i­nal 201617 bud­get and the Septem­ber changes suf­fered from a prob­lem that has plagued the city for at least a full decade: fore­casts of rev­enue and tax col­lec­tion that were “not re­al­is­tic.”

Last year alone, Tyrrell said, “We over­spent ... by ap­prox­i­mately $2.8 mil­lion and rev­enues un­der­per­formed by $6.7 mil­lion.”

The new bud­get fore­casts rev­enue and spend­ing this year to equal each other at $68.4 mil­lion, down from ex­pected rev­enue of $70 mil­lion and planned spend­ing of $69.8 mil­lion in the orig­i­nal bud­get, but higher than the pro­jected $64.8 mil­lion in rev­enue and $61.8 mil­lion in spend­ing in the amended bud­get from Septem­ber.

Some of the ad­di­tional funds will come from funds that were al­lo­cated but not spent in past years.

City Coun­cil is ex­pected to vote on Jan. 17 to ap­pro­pri­ate about $5.1 mil­lion to a va­ri­ety of pro­grams from stepped-up build­ing code en­force­ment to pub­lic schools to the po­lice and fire de­part­ments, restor­ing some of the funds that were cut in the Septem­ber bud­get changes.

Funds from the city’s 2012-13 Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Block Grants (CDBG) to­tal­ing $465,000, orig­i­nally al­lo­cated to Cen­tre Hill Man­sion, will be used in­stead to fund build­ing code en­force­ment, side­walk re­pairs and im­prove­ments, and the Virginia Main Street eco­nomic and com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment pro­gram.

Funds amount­ing to $197,000 from the 201415, 2015-16 and 2016-17 CDBG pro­grams, orig­i­nally ear­marked for var­i­ous Peters­burg Re­de­vel­op­ment and Hous­ing Au­thor­ity ini­tia­tives, will now go to im­prove­ments to Sycamore Towers, the hous­ing au­thor­ity-owned se­nior and dis­abled hous­ing fa­cil­ity on South Sycamore Street.

The ma­jor­ity of the re­al­lo­cated money comes from in­ter­est pre­vi­ously earned on pro­ceeds from Peters­burg bonds is­sued through the Virginia Re­sources Au­thor­ity. City Coun­cil in Novem­ber ap­proved the al­lo­ca­tion of a to­tal of $4.69 mil­lion to high-pri­or­ity cap­i­tal projects.

The Bobb Group is rec­om­mend­ing these spe­cific ap­pro­pri­a­tions from that pool of money: about $81,000 to Peters­burg City Pub­lic Schools, $500,000 to Gen­eral Gov­ern­ment, $3.5 mil­lion for pub­lic works, $500,000 to the Po­lice Depart­ment and $143,000 to the Fire and Emer­gency Med­i­cal Ser­vices Depart­ment.

Robert Bobb Group founder and Pres­i­dent Robert C. Bobb Jr. em­pha­sized “the ur­gency of our rec­om­men­da­tions and that ev­ery­one will be ac­count­able for his or her ac­tions. We will in­sti­tute per­for­mance met­rics to pre­vent fur­ther crises from oc­cur­ring in the fu­ture. This is a cru­cial process for Peters­burg and it needs to be done cor­rectly. A good bud­get­ing process is the Su­per Bowl for gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties.”

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