City of Columbus Faces More Budget Woes

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The City of Columbus budget picture is getting worse. In November Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman announced the city faced an 83 million dollar budget shortfall. He proposed serious cuts including closing 11 city recreational centers to balance the budget. WOSU reports the city needs to cut an additional $13 million.

When Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman presented his 2009 budget in November it was balanced – and that was done so with some major cuts. Now the mayor said the city will need to slash an additional $13 million. The bad news came at the end of the year when City Auditor Hugh Dorian told the mayor city revenues were down more than expected.

So to help close the gap Coleman asked five city workers’ unions, including the Police and the Fire Fighters Unions, to forgo 2009 pay raises and service credit increases. Non-union city workers have already had their salaries frozen. The unions’ salary freeze would save the city $10 million.

“I asked them to consider the possibility of not paying their three percent, in some cases, three percent pay increases in order to keep our city moving, our doors open and providing the services we need,” Coleman said.

Even if the unions agree, the city would still have another $3 million to cut. Coleman said if the unions agree to the wage freeze, he promised them no more layoffs. But if union members don’t agree… “Then we will have to go back to the drawing board and consider everything; consider layoffs as well as other service cuts,” Coleman said.

So far the police and fire divisions have avoided major cuts. But when asked if public safety would be cut, the mayor said it is not out of the question.

“Certainly every thing’s on the table as it always is. But that policy decision has not been made yet on that issue,” the mayor said.

In a written statement the head of the Columbus firefighters union said the union would consider the mayor’s request.