Mark Taylor
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The Gardner City Council has two weeks to hash out its differences over the city budget before voting to publish it.
Council members debated the budget for nearly three hours on July 2 before agreeing to disagree and to submit recommended spending changes to city staff before the council’s July 16 meeting.
The meeting became tense at times with Councilman Larry Fotovich arguing for spending cuts with city staff and council members.
Fotovich said he wanted to cut spending for travel expenditures as well as tuition reimbursement for city employees.
“I propose cutting expenses,” Fotovich said. “You already tax the citizens too much.”
The council discussed at length the city’s mill levy and a proposed pay increase for city employees.
The 3 percent pay increase would cost the city about $150,000.
The city’s budget so far proposes holding the tax levy steady at 31 mills.
One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.
That equals about $18 per mill for each taxpayer, and brings in about $130,000 per year for the city.
Council members Heath Freeman, Randy Gregorcyk and Kristy Harrison each expressed concern about budgeting for future infrastructure maintenance.
Fotovich disputed the 3 percent pay increase for city employees.
He said that money would be better spent paying down the city’s debt in the current economy.
The exchange between Fotovich, council members and city staff became heated at times.
At one point, Mike Press, interim city administrator, asked Fotovich, “Would you like to manage this city or would you rather govern it?”
Harrison said she believed the city would be “missing the boat” if it did not put more money into maintaining sewer, water and streets.
Later in the meeting, Mayor Dave Drovetta proposed directing sales tax revenue growth beyond 5 percent toward paying down the city’s expenses.
The council will meet next at 7 p.m. on July 16 at city hall.
An approved 2013 city budget must be filed with the state no later than Aug. 25.