Zick says it's not all bad news, though, and contends the water and sewer portion of the city is doing well. It wasn't long ago the city raised its water and sewer rates some 60 percent (combined) in an effort to curve the shortfall that was occurring in the department. Zick says the many projects identified in water and sewer are and will go forward because of the increase.
“The general fund is in trouble,” said Zick, who blames costs associated with hazardous duty pay for both police and fire departments. Zick feels the state is not allowing the monies necessary to fund this program and says the state needs to do something immediately about the issue. He said it won't be long before cities such as Russellville won't be able to afford to maintain the fire and police departments if something isn't done about pensions.
Zick said he and the city council went over the budget with a fine tooth comb finding ways to lower costs. About 30 city employees were not given annual cost-of-living raises for the 2007-08 fiscal year, and merit raises were done away with completely for all employees.
Those who work for the city were hit in another way when insurance costs went up 2 percent, and the employee will now be required to pay that additional cost out of their own pockets.
The fire department will not be allowed to backfill a vacant position and the police department will be in the same boat with three vacancies unfilled.
The Logan County Humane Society asked for an additional $14,000 in annual funding from the city, but instead the annual funding they did receive was cut in half.
The Logan County/Russellville Airport Board won't be getting its request for additional funds and although the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) did receive an increase of approximately $22,000 the economic developers didn't get what they asked for.
“We do value the work these entities do for the community,” said Zick, “but we just can't afford right now to do what they want.”
When asked if the Carpenter Center's lengthy and costly woes played a part in the cuts, Zick said that it was only part of the equation. He stood firm on the center's service to the community and said he didn't want to shut it down and have to pay a large annual payment on an empty building.
Zick wants to remind the community that the city spends $167,000 annually to keep up the city/county park. He said although the park is utilized by people from all over the county it is the city which ultimately has to foot the bill. The city has two other parks to maintain as well.
“At least this will stop the bleeding and we will be holding our own,” said Zick. “We can't have a budget where we are losing money. We cannot continue to borrow money. This is no different than what people do in their own homes.”
Zick wants to remind the citizens that the city is growing and there are a lot of exciting things on the horizon. He said the city offers a wonderful park system, aquatic center and dedicated emergency services.
“We are just trying to be responsible and be the best stewards we can with the taxpayer's dollar,” Zick concluded.