Cities and counties all across the state of Florida will have to scale back their budgets... and Tallahassee is no exception.
Wednesday night (09/10/08) was the first public hearing on the 2009 budget.
Only about a dozen people spoke Wednesday night. It was nothing like the Leon County budget hearing last week probably because the city isn't proposing to increase the millage rate, but the city is making some painful cuts.
Debbie Lightsey has been on the Tallahassee City Commission for nearly 20 years, and while she says there have been some lean years in the past, this is the first time in her two decades on the commission that the city's had to lay off people due to budget cuts.
Raoul Lavin with the Tallahassee Management and Administration has been working closely with the commission to help devise the budget. He says they've had to make some hard decisions.
"The budget recommends the elimination of 22 and a half positions. Of those, about 10 and a half are currently filled that have been identified to be eliminated on October 1st," says Lavin.
Collectively the commissioners say cutting jobs is difficult, but they're working with 1.3 million dollars less in the general fund than the current year's budget. The new budget also cuts two Tallahassee Fire Department ladder units and the department's overtime. Tallahassee resident Travis Oaks is the president of the Firefighters' Association and voiced his concerns during the public hearing.
"They are going to cost response time which response time in our business can cost lives," says Oaks.
A row of Tallahassee firefighters showed up to oppose the cuts to the fire department, but not everyone came to criticize the budget. Gayle Muenchow says she came because the budget includes higher solid waste fees and she has an alternative solution.
"It takes me two weeks to fill up my trash can. I don't need weekly trash collection. And so I thought why can't I just have my trash collected every other week. And while they're at it, why don't I get charged a little less," explains Muenchow.
The commissioners seemed to take Ms. Muenchow's suggestion seriously and asked a department head to meet with her so maybe they'll try to use that suggestion to cut costs. There's still time for the budget to change. There's one more public hearing on the budget on September 24th and that's also when the final vote will be taken.