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Ellis, Reichert Talk Finances: Then and Now | News

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Ellis, Reichert Talk Finances: Then and Now
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According to auditors, the best way to measure the net worth of the city is to look at the fund balance.

You can find that by subtracting the city's liabilities, or money it owes, from the assets, or anything the city owns with some kind of value. That's usually in the form of land or bonds.

When C. Jack Ellis took office in 2000, the city's fund balance was $10.6 million. By the end of his second term, the city was in the red by $3.5 million.

"We were carrying around $15 million from the Centreplex and from solid waste. We had new auditors come in. After forty years we changed auditors, and they said that we couldn't carry those types of debts on the books anymore, that the Centreplex or solid waste would never be able to pay the general fund back," explains Ellis. He says the city had to write those off as expenditures, which brought down the fund balance. He also says he left $6 million in the city's lock box.

Reichert says the fund balance was still in the red, and he's spent the past six years bringing it up to $8.9 million in 2012. He says he did that partially by reducing the insurance benefits for city employees and retirees.

"So we made some decisions like that that were hard decisions to make, but they helped plug the gaps and the hemorrhaging of money out of the city budget," says Reichert. "By balancing the city budget every year and having more revenue than we did expenses, we were able to build back."

However, a city audit shows property taxes rose under Ellis by a total of 2.5 mills in 2003 and 2004.

Taxes later decreased in 2010 under Reichert's administration, but near the start of his first term, Reichert laid off over 60 city employees to balance the budget.

Whichever candidate takes the top spot in the new government will have to cut five percent of the budget every year for four years.

Ellis says, "You have to eliminate some of the duplication when it comes to the senior level. You have to eliminate some people there, no question about it. We're not going to have two public works directors, we're not going to have to human resources directors. But that won't get us where we need to be with the 20% that you mentioned. What we have to do is grow the economy."

When asked how he would cut the budget, Reichert said, "We're going to take advantage of attrition. We've got a lot of people that are approaching retirement age that may take this, the first year or two, as the opportunity to say 'put in my time, ready to enjoy my retirement.' We look for efficiencies and don't necessarily replace everybody that retires. So we're going to pull the personnel costs down that way, look for savings and efficiencies in the other 30, 35% of the budget."

Both say they hope to avoid tax increases or a large number of layoffs.

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