City officials look to reduce personnel costs

By Tony Parra

City Manager Debi Lee stressed the importance of cutting costs in personnel and the first move was made in her budget proposal in Thursday’s finance committee meeting.
In the previous budget meeting, Lee said normally the personnel portion for city budgets should be 50 to 55 percent, but the portion for Portales’ budget was in the high 70s. According to budget reports the percent was 77.4 for the 2002-03 budget and 78.51 for the 2003-04 budget.
The first proposed budget for the 2004-05 fiscal year had a 79.48 percent for personnel, a cost of $4,966,594.86. Lee reduced the cost to $4,851,687.06, a reduction of $1,114,907.80.
Lee said there is a vacancy and an employee who will retire, which creates another vacancy in the police department. She also said there will be vacancies in the fire, street and airport departments.
“The department heads made a concerned effort,” Lee said. “The chief (Portales Police Chief Jeff Gill) was wonderful about reorganizing and not replacing some vacancies.”
Another change was made during Thursday’s meeting and it was to the way funding will be provided for the contract renewal of the chamber of commerce welcome center, which costs $15,000. Initially the money was going to come out of the budget, but Lee said she spoke with Kim Huffman, president of the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce, and they decided it should come out of the lodger’s tax fund.
“Because it is a tight budget, we are recommending that the lodger’s tax fund (contract services),” Lee said.
People who stay in Portales hotels pay a lodger’s tax in their bill and this is the money Lee and Huffman are proposing to use to pay for the contract renewal of the Chamber.
“That seems to be the logical place for it (welcome center),” Finance Committee chairman D.K. Shafer said. “Tourists pay for it and so it should be for them.”
Lee, Ortega and the finance committee members agreed to have another budget meeting within the next two weeks. Lee said she would like to have a preliminary budget to present to the city council in their first meeting in June.