"The citizens want better police protection, and no tax increase,"
Grand Island City Council member Peg Gilbert explained.
And that's just what the Grand Island City Council voted to give its citizens last night. But, it took some belt-tightening, some shifting, and some spending deferrals.
"Expenses in the Fire Department; okay, they took the $1.17 million that was proposed to council and reduced that amount to $800,000," Grand Island Finance Director Jay Monter detailed.
And more funds were made available by using a portion of the city's cash reserves to pay off some debt, thus eliminating the associated interest payments.
"Instead of having that debt payment that we have to the Wood River Control Bonds, we will be able to use that payment also to fund the police officers," Monter commented.
Now five new patrol officers are slated to be hired by December. The Fire Department's requested budget was slashed by almost one-third, but they were given greater freedom in spending it.
"When they just give us a flat figure like they did for our capital improvements, if we run into those kind of economies where we can save a little bit of money, we'll just make it further down our wish list. Will we make it all the way down with what they gave us? We don't know," said Grand Island Interim Fire Chief Russ Blackburn.
At least one city council member believes this year's budget can be passed with no tax increase. However, two major items have yet to be funded.
Those items include deciding whether to bring the Jackrabbit Run golf course into the City Parks and Recreation Department, and what to do about the nearly one-half million dollar irrigation system the course requires. Also on the agenda: what contribution, if any, to make to the Grand Generation Senior Center.
The council will continue their discussions on August 28, as they work to meet the State of Nebraska's budget submission deadline, September 20.