The Annapolis city council has approved Mayor Joshua J. Cohen's $75.1 million operating budget, which furloughs police and fire personnel and raises fees for such city services as water use and recreation centers.
The spending plan is 13 percent below the $86.5 million operating budget for the current fiscal year, a reduction that city officials said might be the largest percentage decrease statewide this year.
"I applaud the city council, the department heads and the rest of the city's work force as well as the public for their contributions to this budget," Cohen said. "We made some tough sacrifices to achieve the necessary cuts. This budget is just the first step toward establishing a new era of fiscal responsibility in city government."
Cohen cut an additional $5 million from the budget proposal that he presented to the council earlier this year, after the layoffs of 33 city employees, a move he said was necessary because he inherited a "financial train wreck" when he took office this year. The city recently borrowed $10 million after a cash-flow problem threatened its ability to make payroll.
About $1.2 million was trimmed from the city's transportation budget, which will result in cuts to bus routes. Another $1 million was cut from the Fire Department and will result in service adjustments. Through retirements, the police force was decreased from its current 121 officers to 116.
"There may be some hiccups, but we're going to make it work," said mayoral spokesman Phillip McGowan, who added that the city has "good partnerships" with the county and the Naval Academy. "We're able to share the load."
About $2 million was gained through union concessions. The police union agreed to five furlough days; the firefighters union agreed to up to nine furlough days; and the two unions that represent clerical, technical and maintenance workers agreed to up to four furlough days.
The city will save about $580,000 in this year's budget by forgoing a 3 percent wage increase for some unionized workers.
City employees will pay a greater share of their health care costs, increasing their responsibility to 20 percent. Retirees will now pay 30 percent.
The city's nonunionized employees will take a 2 percent pay cut, while department heads making more than $100,000 a year will take a 5 percent cut.
The operating budget was approved by a 6-3 vote. The city's capital budget was approved 8-1.
Alderman Ross Arnett, who voted against the operating budget, said further staff cuts should have been made to avoid more cash-flow problems.
"Our cash flow is so tight," said Arnett, a Democrat. "I don't think we're going to make it. We're far overstaffed in comparison to other comparable cities. I know it's tough, and I wouldn't want anyone to lose their job, but we shouldn't be paying people for services we don't need."
While the city will decrease some services, such as reducing trash pickup from twice to once weekly, it also will increase fees at the city recreation centers and bus fares from $1 to $1.50. Water usage rates will increase, and an average Annapolis household will pay about $60 more per year.
City officials hope to save $1 million more by offering a retirement incentive for police and firefighters, which would give those employees two years of service, in order to reach the 20-year minimum to qualify for retirement.
Up to 54 employees are eligible for the incentive, but city officials do not expect that many to retire.
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