By Steven Jackson
The City of Beloit faces a massive hole in its 2012 budget. With a $2.5 million deﬁcit in the General Fund, signiﬁcant cuts in public safety and city services are in the works. The deﬁcit is the result of budget changes at the state level as well as broader economic trends: rising expenses in health care, fuel and the cost of living.
The General Fund represents approximately one-third of the city’s total budget. It mainly funds public safety, public works and city administrative departments. Due to rising costs, the city determined that an increase of about $2 million was necessary to maintain current service levels covered by the General Fund. Add to that a decrease of approximately $600,000 in shared revenue from state and federal tax dollars, and the city now faces a $2.5 million hole in the budget.
The most dramatic cuts will hit police and ﬁre departments, with both losing over half a million dollars in funding. Most notably, this ﬁnancial decrease amounts to a loss of six police oﬃcers and six ﬁreﬁghters.
Representatives from the police and ﬁre departments presented at the City Council meeting this Monday, explaining how the budget cuts would undermine their ability to monitor public safety and respond to emergencies.
Police staﬃng would go from 77 oﬃcers to 71, the lowest level since the 1980’s. Detectives would take on 10 percent fewer cases, and less oﬃcers would be available for regular patrols and community outreach.
The news from the ﬁre department was even more dire. The proposed budget cuts would take department personnel from 15 to 13 on staﬀ at any given time. Fifteen is the national standard for crew size in ﬁghting typical house ﬁres. To put it in perspective, two advanced medical emergency calls at the same time would tie up all ﬁre department resources.
The 2012 operating budget will be presented at the City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 3. The council will hold workshops in October to consider possible changes to the recommended budget. The oﬃcial public hearing for the budget will take place on Oct. 17.
Although the budget deadline falls in December, it is expected to be ﬁnalized by early November.
To see the budget proposal in its entirety, visit the city website at http://www.ci.beloit.wi.us.