Orlando budget slices $10 million, but leaves money for 2% raises

By Beth Kassab | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted July 28, 2003

New community centers, additional firefighters and 2 percent raises are on the budget Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is expected to present to the City Council today, despite cuts totaling about $10 million.

Cuts will be made throughout city departments, Dyer said Friday without discussing details of the proposed $586 million budget.

The decreases will help meet Dyer's mandate to reduce spending enough to keep the city from running a deficit for the third consecutive year.

Among programs being cut are those that fund grants to community and faith-based organizations, with a projected drop from $6.7 million to $4.4 million.

An analysis earlier this month showed that if the city's spending level remained flat against the projected revenue that Orlando could be as much as $14 million in the red.

But the city's overall financial picture became less bleak, Dyer said, when an extra $4 million from sales taxes, OUC dividends and other revenue streams was forecast, leaving $10 million to be streamlined.

Dyer would not discuss details and ordered city department heads not to answer questions about how their budgets were being tightened.

He planned to present the details to the City Council at 9:30 a.m.

Nearly 200 city employees were fired last month,but Dyer said no more layoffs are in the works. In fact, all city employees are slated to get a 2 percent raise.

The Rosemont and College Park communities may be surprised to find they're getting long-awaited community centers, facilities that have been on the bubble.

Those projects, along with money for renovations at Lake Eola and the Smith Center, were dropped from this year's budget in March when the council had to make emergency cuts to prevent a projected $23.6 million deficit.

Council member Vicki Vargo, who represents Rosemont and lobbied the mayor for the project, was on vacation and could not be reached Friday.

The Fire Department was authorized to hire about 10 additional firefighters in an effort to help the department reduce extensive overtime charges that have contributed to the city's deficit for the past two years, according to an early draft of the city's budget.

While the cost for firefighter salaries went up from $38 million to $42 million, entry-level firefighters will cost the city less thanpaying veteran firefighters overtime.

Beth Kassab can be reached at [email protected] or 407-420-5448.

© 2003 Orlando Sentinel Communications