The yearly budget agreed upon in last nights Falconville City Council meeting would have a tremendous impact on city services. Joan Bell, the new City Administrator, proposed, and won, a $300,000 cut in the city budget. Bell, who was appointed City Administrator unanimously by the council last night, is expected to take over much of the day-to-day management of the city. The new budget allots $90,000 for the new position, of which $54,000 goes to Bell’s salary with the rest earmarked for set-up costs. “I think it is justified when you see what other areas we save in by consolidating duties into one office,” said Bell in a phone interview. These words do little to quiet general uneasiness among city employees that the new position is merely a “Super Boss.”
There is uneasiness in the population of Falconville that goes deeper than the creation of the City Administrator position. The new budget severely curtails many city services; for example, among the hardest hit were the Ambulance Services. Also downsized is the department of City Attorney, currently held by Camden Hadley. The council did have reasons for the huge cuts in these sectors. Bell explained that the Ambulance services are being privatized and next year’s budget would probably allocate zero funding. The City Attorney position will be offered only as a part-time position since it is rumored to be Hadley’s last year in office so the nearly 52 percent budget cut was quickly agreed upon.
There were other hard hit areas that were not as explainable, including the Police Department Operations and the Parks and Recreation Department, who will see ten percent and 13 percent budget decreases. These departments are being asked to limit or eliminate many activities that were previously expected of them by city citizens. The Police Department is thinking of cutting out walking patrols around Little League Games, which has many parents and umpires angry. "Some parents react criminally when they don't like the call or if they think you don't play their kid enough,” was a comment made by a group of coaches and umpires. Police are proposing to provide game announcers with two-way radios that can be used to contact regular police patrols in the area. “We'll do whatever the council decides, but I feel safer having officers at the games,” stated Parks and Recreation Director Elaine Hultquist. Councilwoman Tanya Tager has called for a public hearing to be held on the unresolved issue at the next meeting.
Other Parks and Recreation programs are also being cut in order to comply with the new budget. The council approved the Coast Guards proposed “Safe Boating Week” to be celebrated June 29 – July 6. Due to budget cuts, however, the Parks and Recreation Department will be discontinuing the safe boating classes for adults that have been offered for the past ten years.