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City's 2011 budget outcomes could be dire

The City of Morris is planning for the worst in its 2011 budget, and the cost could be losses of jobs and services, wage freezes and a tax hike. And that's just the start.

The Morris City Council approved City Manager Blaine Hill's 2011 budget guidelines on Tuesday.

The state is facing a budget shortfall for the next biennium estimated at $5 billion to $6 billion. Hill said he's expecting additional cuts of the city's Local Government Aid from the state but can't guess how much.

"Given the grave situation the 2011 Legislature faces, I think it is clear we will see more cuts," Hill said in a memo to the council. "How much? I can't tell you, but it won't be zero."

The guidelines represent some of the most drastic budgeting measures city officials have had to contemplate in many years. Not only will operational budgets be affected but the city may scale back plans to bond for infrastructure projects every two years instead of annually.

The city also expects to negotiate with its unions for wage freezes over the next two years. Union contracts expire this year.

With the council's approval, Hill and his staff will plan the city's 2011 budget using some of these guidelines:

•A "worst-case" plan to eliminate three full-time employees.

•Freezing wages for 2011.

•Reducing the city's General Fund budget by 8 percent.

•Increasing the general tax levy by 3 percent.

•Increase utility rates by 3 percent.

•Reduce the city's public library funding by 8 percent.

•Reduce commitments to Community Education, the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission and the Stevens County History Museum by 8 percent.

•Freeze capital equipment purchases, small equipment purchases and non-essential travel.

•Increase the city's general fee schedule by 5 percent.

The city also expects to estimate 15 percent increases in workers compensation insurance and group health insurance.

"In preparing the guidance," Hill stated, "I tried to assume the worst-case scenario."