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Georgetown budget lowest in 10 years

GEORGETOWN — Mayor Karen Tingle-Sames told business leaders and city officials Monday afternoon that Georgetown's budget next year will be the lowest it has been in 10 years.

Tingle-Sames delivered a state of the city address that reviewed cuts recently made to reduce a $3 million budget deficit this fiscal year and presented solutions to long-standing budget woes. The city currently has no reserve funds.

"The state of our city is far from perfect, but it is set on the right path," the mayor said during a luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Tingle-Sames said the city budget for fiscal year 2010 will total $15 million to $16 million. Georgetown has not had a budget that low since 1999, she said. In 2007, the budget was $23 million.

"The downturn in the economy has set us back 10 years," Tingle-Sames said during the address.

During the luncheon, Tingle-Sames reviewed about a dozen cost-cutting measures that have been implemented:

■ The city has remained in a hiring freeze for about two years, and retirees haven't been replaced.

■ The payroll has been reduced from 210 employees to 169, saving the city about $2.1 million each year.

■ Employees no longer receive anniversary salary increases, and they must contribute 10 percent of the cost of their insurance.

■ There have been few, if any, capital improvements, and no vehicles have been purchased.

■ Overtime has been reduced in all departments, and there has been little travel allowed.

■ Fire trucks may be used only for fire runs, and police officers who live in the county are no longer permitted to take their vehicles home.

Tingle-Sames presented several ideas that she said would benefit the city and help prevent similar budget problems in the future, including placing a percentage of revenue into reserves and using net profits as one-time capital expenses instead of using them for salaries and pay increases. She also said the council and fiscal court should consider merging the city and county fire departments.

Tingle-Sames delivered about a 20-minute speech, before accepting questions from the crowd. About five people questioned the mayor about several issues, including attrition, taxes and the possibility of a city and county merger.

After the address, Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, who was in the crowd, said he thought the speech "struck just the right tone." He said tough decisions don't always make everyone happy, and he praised the mayor for recapping some of those decisions and discussing solutions.

"She was very positive and forward-thinking," Thayer said.