Pueblo City Manager, Jerry Pacheco, met with the Pueblo City Council Monday evening to give them a peek at the upcoming 2011 budget. Like last year's budget, the outlook is grim. With an estimated $9 million shortfall, Pacheco plans to recommend freezing positions, and cutting back on spending in order to reduce the deficit by nearly half.
As was the case in 2010, the bulk of the shortfall is expected to be absorbed by the general fund reserve. Barring any last minute changes, the 2011 budget could cut $4-5 million from it.
Most of Pueblo's city departments are running on skeleton crews as it is. The Pueblo Fire Department staffing level is at its minimum required. The Pueblo Police Department will have 15 unfilled positions frozen until the city returns to a more profitable situation. The planning department will continue to have a vacancy in the top administrative position. Everyone will be asked to pick up the slack in their departments, and no lay-offs are planned.
Despite recent declarations that the recession is officially over, the reality for Pueblo is that relief from tough economic times is still years away. "Government is the last to come out of the recession, because a lot of our taxes and things are in rears. So we are already projecting that '12 will be another bad year. So probably a glimmer of light in '13," said Pacheco.
Until then, city service response times will be reduced because of the shortage in manpower at all levels and across all departments. Pacheco hopes residents will understand the situation and be patient with the city until they can get departments up and running at full strength again.
Pacheco will present the city council with a budget on October 12. Council members will then have roughly six weeks to make adjustments and accept it.