Committee confident it is on right track

By Tony Parra

Portales finance committee members said they agreed on one thing after they approved the budget to be presented to city council members on Thursday.
They’re heading in the right direction.
In previous meetings, members have talked about the $1.2 million-dollar budget deficit and the high percentage of cost in the personnel category of the city’s expenses. City Manager Debi Lee said in a previous meeting that the percentage of expenditures for personnel costs for Portales is 70 percent. She continued that the number needs to be less and has seen an average of 50 to 55 percent for personnel costs.
“We’re taking a step in the right direction,” Lee said. “The budget’s going to be lean. I want us to build our reserves. I want to us to be able to use more money for services, such as maintaining our parks.”
Lee said the objective is to try to decrease the city’s dependency on subsidies, such as water and wastewater enterprises. She said money from these funds has been transferred to the general fund. According to Lee, over $2 million was transferred to the general fund last year. That number has decreased to a projection of $1.3 million for the 2004-05 fiscal budget.
Lee said she wants more of the money which is transferred to the general fund to be used for improvements to water enterprise projects and to keep rates from going up for the public.
Finance committee chairman D. K. Schafer said he’s been through these budget crunches before. In all, the projections call for a 5.17 percent decrease in total expenditures.
“Cutting expenditures is not an easy thing to do,” Schaefer said. “I feel real good about the budget. We’ll be in good shape.”
Finance committee member Mike Miller agreed with Schaefer and was also glad the city officials did not have to bring up the issue of gross receipt taxes for the city.
“I appreciate that with did not have to increase taxes,” Miller said. “We’re going to be able to do this budget without taxes.”
Lee said the budget will be presented to city council members for approval in the city meeting on Tuesday. She said once it is approved it will be sent by mail to the New Mexico Finance Department on Wednesday.