Iowa City to cut travel budget

BY TESSA McLEAN | APRIL 15, 2009 7:38 AM

Iowa City officials aren’t going anywhere.

In another effort to deal with increasing budget reductions at the city level, officials will curtail travel expenses.

Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey made the initial suggestion to slash travel expenses in January. She said for a public- service organization, travel is usually the first expense cut.

“We felt like it was something that was working for other organizations and so we deemed it necessary also,” she said, noting maintaining a certain amount of travel is necessary for the accreditation of some departments. “The question is, is it necessary to attend your professional national conference?”

Cutting back on personnel is something Iowa City officials are also considering, she said.

Property tax is the single largest revenue source for the city’s general fund, accounting for almost 69 percent of the fiscal 2009 revenues. The next largest source is charges for services, at 9 percent.

Seventy percent of the general fund goes for personnel costs — a little over $33 million in fiscal 2009.

The fiscal 2009 general fund revenue budget was $46,405,724. It is $47,308,292 for fiscal 2010, a 1.9 percent increase.

City Manager Michael Lombardo said there is a suggestion box available for city employees to contribute proposals on how the city could trim their budget.

“I have asked staff to examine all of their operation costs and examine ways to be more efficient, even down to the little things,” he said. “If [travel] is necessary for certification or maintaining licensing, or if it is critical, we will continue to do it.”

Travel requests will continue to go through department heads, but if the travel is questionable it will be forwarded to Assistant City Manager Dale Helling or Lombardo to be approved, Lombardo said.
Local authorities will need to travel some to maintain accreditation.

The Iowa City police is reaccredited every three years by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement. The last reaccreditation review took place in December 2007.

Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said reducing travel is only a temporary situation local authorities have had to deal with.

“We have enjoyed sending officers nationwide before,” he said. “Because of budget cuts, we need to curtail travel, and hopefully, we can make up for it in the future.”

The cuts will not affect his department in the long-term, he said, but the force will have to make short-term adjustments.

Lombardo noted city officials are doing what they can to cut costs across the board, but they haven’t made any decisions.

“Everything is on the table,” he said.

UI officials have also said they are considering cutting nonessential travel to save expenses.

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