Some of the suggestions
Here are some of the taxes and fees suggested:
* Charging residents and businesses for garbage collection. To recoup the cost of the contract with M and M Sanitation, the city would need to collect $6.80 a month from residents and $33.98 for commercial customers. It would cost $5 a month to add curbside recycling for all recyclables but glass, which would be collected at drop-off centers throughout the city.
* 4 percent increase in property tax.
* 0.5 or 0.25 percent increase in the occupational license fee.
* A stormwater utility fee to pay for new federal Clean Water Act regulations. The city spends $120,000 a year now on stormwater programs, such as cleaning ditches. The city will have to spend twice that much next year to comply with the regulations, and $344,000 in the coming years to set up a stormwater utility, much like the water or sewer utilities.
Commissioners also will consider not paying for employees' dental insurance and having the employees pay 10 percent of their health insurance premiums.
City Manager Darrell Blenniss said private companies do not usually pay for employees' total health insurance premiums, like the city does, but the practice makes up for government jobs' lower salaries and it helps keep skilled employees.
There will be a $200,000 shortfall this year
At the end of this year, the city, even with a freeze on hiring and non-essential spending, will have spent $200,000 more than it collected in taxes and fees.
City staff projects that in 2006 it will have a $1 million shortfall that could grow to $1.7 million by 2009.
Blenniss said that if the spending continues unchecked, the commissioners will have to start making drastic decisions.
"When you start making drastic decisions, they are usually bad," he said, and then compared the city's situation to an Arctic iceberg with just a tip showing above the water.
Blenniss said an expanding police department and the rising costs of health insurance and gasoline were some of the factors that created the shortfalls.
Commissioners turned down the police department's request for another officer in 2004, but Blenniss said that the department believes that the city will need four more officers in the next five years.
Blenniss asked commissioners to decided by April 15 what new sources of revenues or cuts they want to consider to balance the budget.
Some ways to save money
He gave several other suggestions for saving money, such as combining the building inspector office and billing with the county. He also suggested a reorganization of city hall that would eliminate a full-time and part-time position. The plan doesn't require any pay increases, but Blenniss said it could save the city $45,000 a year.
Commissioner Alex Stevens said he knows that every time the idea of charging for garbage collection comes up, there is a "minor rebellion" from the public. "I think some of these things are going to have to be done" this time, he said.
Bowling said if taxes have to be raised, he wants to know how the money will be spent.
Blenniss suggested that it be put into a capital expenditure fund, which goes to pay for construction projects such as the new fire department on the bypass or the proposed police station.
"You've given us a lot of the information we're going to need before we dive into this tub of hot water," Commissioner Terry Crowley told Blenniss.