The Queen Creek Town Council voted Wednesday to slash the upcoming fiscal year’s budget by nearly $100 million.
The Town Council unanimously approved a $134 million tentative budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year. The current fiscal year’s budget totals nearly $230 million. The large cuts are a result of a drastically declining housing market and poor economy which has left the town budget, that relies heavily on permit fees and construction sales tax, in the lurch.
“I wish I could do that at home,” said Mayor Art Sanders, who was pleased with the trimming work done by town staff.
The town’s capital improvement budget took one of the hardest hits for the upcoming year. The $28 million fund will be used mainly to cover debt but includes projects for public works, fire services, parks and dust control measures. Town staff said they are still moving forward with more than $80 million in capital projects already underway.
“This budget has been very challenging to prepare,” said Town Manager John Kross. “We had to make some very difficult decisions in order to bring forward a balanced budget program.”
Other major cuts include abolishing 23 vacant positions, laying off 14 people, reducing pay for salaried employees by 6 ¼ percent and reducing hourly employees to 37.5 hours.
The town also said there will be no cost of living salary increases and some benefits to employees will be cut. Kross said the town anticipates saving about $4.6 million through those cuts.
Town officials are adding to one area of the budget -- the town’s contingency fund where Kross said they will put aside about 10 percent of the budget.
“This is the largest in recent years and is being done to contemplate further weakening of the economy,” he said.
The Town Council is expected to approve the final budget in June.