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West Point leaders get creative to cut deficit





WEST POINT -- West Point''s city board still has a ways to go after it began cutting into a $700,000 deficit Monday. 


The board trimmed approximately $515,800, according to City Administrator Randy Jones, leaving $184,000 still to be eliminated from the city''s fiscal year 2010 deficit. The changes are on the books, but nothing is final. 


"A lot of this stuff, we''re going to go back and revisit. Like health insurance," said Ward 5 Selectman Jasper Pittman. 


Pittman said a special meeting is scheduled for Dec. 28 to further discuss the budget. Jones hopes to hold that meeting as early as Monday. 


Whenever the next special meeting takes place, the board''s decision to cut city employee health premiums by 50 percent likely will be discussed.  




Slashing benefits 


West Point previously had paid 100 percent of employee premiums, which Mayor Scott Ross estimated at around $400 per employee. Now employees must decide whether they wish to keep their insurance at the new rate. 


The cut is expected to save the city $124,000 over the next six months if it stands. The board also voted to make city employees responsible for 100 percent of their dental and vision benefits at an estimated $18,200 in savings. 


Other cuts to city employees include the loss of holiday pay for the remaining five holidays of the 2010 fiscal year ($52,000 in savings) and two furloughed work days each month ($124,000). 


Nearly $100,000 was trimmed from the general fund by transferring several employees to the Water and Light Department and releasing two temporary employees. 


A vacancy at the West Point Police Department will save the city $24,800, while opening the city''s train museum only by appointment will save the city $5,000 in labor. 




Garbage fines 


The citizens of West Point will chip in to the tune of $68,000 over the next six months, once the city''s monthly sanitation fee is increased $2 to $11 per month. 


Additional measures may include eliminating distribution of city trash bags at a savings of $60,000, and beginning a push to retrieve delinquent court fines, Jones said. 


"There''s more than enough (owed in court fines) to close that gap," said Jones. 


In 2008, more than $100,000 in fines was owed to West Point''s Municipal Court. The city next week expects to have the current total. 




A leash on spending 


In an effort to keep city spending down, Jones said any purchase over $250 must be approved by the mayor or the city clerk. 


The board has the power to alter, add to or delete the cuts until Jan. 1. Pittman said the deletion of paid holidays and the furloughs will be re-examined. 


Employees still will get holidays off, but they won''t get paid for the day. Critical staff, such as police and firemen, will be given an alternate day off rather than receiving holiday pay. 


In the case of the furloughs, employees will receive overtime pay if forced to work during their designated furlough days. 


"(The furloughs) are the most difficult piece to manage," said Jones. "For instance, we have to have X number of people at the fire department. We have a little homework to do on that to make it work."




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