Mayor Reichert's budget still under review by council committee

Macon City Council’s Appropriations Committee resumed its review of Mayor Robert Reichert’s budget Wednesday after taking last week off.

The committee is taking a look at each department’s individual spending plan, studying seven of them Wednesday. That included the largest, the fire department, which is slated to spend $19.3 million in fiscal 2010, up 3 percent from the $18.8 million that was budgeted this year. The city is slated to purchase three new fire trucks next budget cycle.

Committee members will look at the remaining five departments today, including the police department, which gets the city’s second largest share of funding.

Reichert has proposed a nearly 9.5 percent increase in police spending over the current fiscal year, up to $18.5 million from $16.9 million.

So far, the Appropriations Committee has refrained from making major changes to the budget. The larger, overarching questions — particularly those dealing with salary and benefit cuts — will not be taken up until departmental reviews are finished. That could begin Friday, but it seems likely to stretch into next week.

Appropriations members are waiting to see where Bibb County cuts spending as well, since the two governments share funding responsibility for several of the same external agencies.

And the council is still trying to figure out how to deal with Reichert’s proposal for city employees to lose their pay for all of the nine holidays they are allotted in fiscal 2010, which begins July 1. And nonessential personnel — everybody except sworn police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers — also would be furloughed for a half-day each pay period, or one day per month.

Councilman Mike Cranford has introduced a resolution aimed at encouraging retirement eligible employees to leave the city, in hopes of freeing up some salary savings. His resolution, which will be on the Employee Development and Compensation Committee’s agenda when it convenes next week, would discontinue the practice of offering health insurance coverage to retirees who leave after Sept. 30. Those who retire before then could still take advantage of the benefit.

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.