Members of the city’s General Services Committee heard from employees who head a variety of operations that provide activities and experiences to the public.
There will be 29 full-time and 21 part-time open positions in city government not being filled during the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. This move will result in a cost reduction of more than $1.7 million. There have been other cuts and several projects removed from the budget as well.
Uncommon and unanticipated expenses, such as improvements at the Roswell Air Center required by the Transportation Security Administration that could total $2.8 million alone, had already been taken into account in assembling the budget.
Mayor Timothy Jennings said the final blow was the news that the city owed nearly $1.5 million for employee life insurance and health benefits as the draft budget was receiving final touches for the official presentation to the City Council on May 15.
“I don’t like it either,” Jennings said Wednesday at the committee meeting. “It is what it is. We’ve got to figure it out.”
He said the late addition of health and insurance costs might be the subject of legal action. If the money comes back, it could provide some financial relief.
The Recreation Department has dropped some activities. The customary lineup of Youth Sports Intro classes won’t be held this summer.
Like any other year, “summer is huge,” said Recreation Director Colette Hall.
The summer camp is still on. This session will be held for only 30 children, not 40, the number of youths participating in past years.
But changes due to budget reductions in the Recreation Department are likely to be more noticeable after youths return to school, Hall noted after the meeting.
And the Spring River Zoo is without a zoo educator and doing more with fewer people than anticipated.
“I’m not an educator, but I’ll do the job,” said John Wright, the zoo director.
Wright emphasized that the zoo staff will do their best to meet visitors’ expectations. But sometimes animal welfare and safety issues must come first. And doing more with less can lead to employees feeling stressed.
‘It’s a challenge,” Wright also said.
Plans continue at the Roswell Museum for floors to be redone.
At least that’s the hope. Creating new signage has been postponed for this upcoming fiscal year, said Caroline Brooks, the museum’s executive director.
“I have to depend on the experts,” said Councilor Juan Oropesa, who also chairs the committee, as he listened to what these supervisors had to say about how the budget will affect these city operations.
Wright said it would be a good idea to train some of the volunteers to provide zoo education. But that proves difficult when the employees there are already quite busy at the zoo and doing their best to handle a variety of tasks.
Heavier reliance on volunteers is being considered within other similar departments that provide these types of services to the public.
This is a time for tough choices, but “it’ll be better next year,” Jennings added.
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