City finances background
Duluth's general-fund budget is $78 million. That fund is like the city's checkbook. In total, the city will spend $246 million in 2007, which includes things such as debt service; large one-time projects the city is paying for; natural gas purch...
Duluth's general-fund budget is $78 million. That fund is like the city's checkbook. In total, the city will spend $246 million in 2007, which includes things such as debt service; large one-time projects the city is paying for; natural gas purchases and other costs to provide water, gas and sewer services; insurance; and health care for employees.
* A selective hiring freeze is in place. Each request to fill a position is judged on how critical it is to city operations. That means open positions for jobs such as police officers, firefighters and water operators still are filled.
"It has to be a matter of health and safety, or by not filling it we would lose revenues in excess of what it would cost to fill the position," said Genie Stark, Duluth's finance director.
* There are 866 full-time positions in the city.
Because of the freeze -- which has been in place in some form for about two years -- 69 positions currently are open.
The single department with the most open positions is the library. It is approved to have 59 staff members, and 17 of those positions are empty. Part of that, though, stems from a union arbitration issue and a large number of recent retirements.
* The bigger problem for the city is not the current freeze but the shrinking staff.
"All of us have been cut in the last five years," Stark said of the city departments. In 2002, departments in the general fund had 690 employees. Next year that figure will be 613.
* One department hit particularly hard by cuts is the public works portion of the Public Works & Utilities Department. In 2002, that part of the department had 106 people. In 2007, the department had 83 positions, and that is set to drop to 79 in 2008.
The public works staff was once bigger than either the police or fire departments. Now each has a bigger staff, because of cuts to the public works department.
In 2008, the Police Department is budgeted to have a staff of 179, up five from this year.
The Fire Department will have 157 people in 2008, down one from this year. That former Fire Department position is now in the Building Safety Office.
* Though there was a projected $6 million budget deficit in July, departments have since cut a total of 19 positions and some capital expenses to make up the difference. The proposed 2008 budget, which goes into effect Jan. 1, is now balanced. The City Council will vote on the 2008 budget on Dec. 17.
"There's going to have to be changes to the organizational structure" when the next mayor rolls in, Stark said. "The departments can't keep operating in this way," she said, meaning cutting positions based on who quits or retires.
SOURCES: The current city budget and an interview with city Finance Director Genie Stark.