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Few answers forthcoming in city's attempt to draft a balanced budget

The Sunnyside City Council meeting held last night was originally planned as the final budget workshop, but instead an eighth workshop has been scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 12, with the final vote on the new budget to be held at a special council meeting on Monday, Dec. 17.

As of last night, the city's budget was still more than $965,000 in the hole, and Interim City Manager Frank Sweet said a combination of cuts and new revenue would be needed to make up the difference.

"We still have some work to do," said Sweet. He told the council he was not prepared to discuss the possible cuts or new revenue streams because he does not have the numbers the council needs.

"I just need to remind everybody, this is something that has not happened overnight," said Sweet. "This has happened over a number of years. And it's not going to be easy to correct this.

"The council is going to be faced with some difficult decisions. I will be making some proposals that are not going to be popular with people, but we have to get our city into a balanced budget and an ongoing accountability of how we spend money."

Sweet said he anticipates having a good picture of what needs to be done within a week's time. He also noted that while the city has to have a balanced budget, the mandate is to have it balanced by Dec. 31, so he decided to slow the process to be certain of the numbers.

"There will be no questions about it, there will be some cuts, there will be some proposals for increase in revenue in order to balance this thing," he said. "Not only do we need to balance it, we need to have a net income at the end of 2013 so we can transfer (funds) into a capital reserve account."

Sweet also spoke about the low sales tax revenues, which are 10 to 20 percent lower than last year, that contributed to the problem.

Two members of the public spoke at the public hearing. Former Councilman Jim Stevens commended Sweet and the council for the work that's been done on the budget.

Stevens also said the city needs to keep the police force intact in order to reduce crime in the community.

"We did have people here, a significant number of people here, when we had the crime issue who said 'we will pay more taxes to get rid of this crime' and they were serious," he said. "I don't' want to lose what we've gained."

He urged the council to not cut the police force staff, particularly the crime analyst position. In agreement with Stevens was Larry Hill, who asked the council to make every effort to keep police and firefighters on the job.

After the public comments, Councilman Nick Paulakis stated that he would forgo his stipend as a council member to help. He said he was surprised that he was paid for being on the council when he first was elected.

Sweet emphasized that the budget must be accurate and he would not bring inaccurate numbers back to council, even if it means delaying the final adoption of the budget until the last minute.

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