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Wildwood faces budget reduction as council considers pay cuts

Some members of the Wildwood City Council were up in arms over cuts proposed in next year’s budget.

However, it’s not the reduced spending that has some council members upset. It’s the potential cut in services.

“Almost all departments and all areas of the budget were scrutinized and reduced, resulting in fewer services for the residents in 2020 and beyond,” Councilmember Tim Woerther [Ward 7] said at the council’s regular meeting on Nov. 12.

Wildwood councilmember Tim Woerther [Ward 7] challenged his fellow council members to address 2020 budget shortfalls by reducing their own salaries on Nov. 12
[Photo by Jeffrey Bricker]

City Administrator Sam Anselm first presented a proposed 2020 budget to the Wildwood council in Nov. 8 memorandum. The proposal included cuts to the general fund operating budget totaling more than $419,000. The proposed cuts came after several council members advised Anselm that the city needed to be working with a balanced budget.

The cuts are spread out across several areas and departments of the city and break down as follows:

  • Administration reduced by $136,518 with the bulk of the savings coming from a reduction in attorney fees and consulting costs;
  • The parks budget would be reduced by $121,061 with $50,000 of that savings coming from cuts in recreation supplies and park maintenance;
  • The Planning budget would be lowered by $39,941 with nearly half of that amount coming from the elimination of the 2021 calendar printing and mailing costs;
  • The City Clerk/Council budget would be cut by $7,051 with the majority of the savings due to the elimination of a public shredding event;
  • The police budget would be reduced by $14,200 through the elimination of capital items requested by the department;
  • Public Works would be cut by $100,820 with $50,000 of that savings attributed to a reduction in the use of outside contractors for small bridge and culvert inspections.

The elimination of the shredding event and 2021 calendar was also challenged by some members.

In response, Woerther posed that the council members examine their own salaries to curb cost cuts.

“The question I have for council members is, are you willing to address your salary to help residents have a consistent level of service and events they are used to having?” Woerther said.

Woerther said cutting the salaries of city council members and the mayor by 50% would save the city about $42,000. While that’s not quite enough to cover the projected costs of what Woerther calls “a popular shredding program” and the annual calendar, it would come close.

Councilmember John Gragnani [Ward 1] noted the changes in salaries for the council members and the mayor were made “a few years ago” and that he was “absolutely in favor of [reducing salaries] as it sends the money back to the people who mean the most, our citizens.”

Mayor Jim Bowlin disagreed and noted the topic of officials’ pay was discussed not long ago.

“Budget choices occur every year. This year, we had to pay large unanticipated costs because of a poorly handled transaction from the prior administration,” Bowlin said. “Elected officials’ pay was just set a few years ago after extensive research, and targeting it runs the risk of limiting public office to only those who don’t have to worry about paying for childcare and other expenses – that’s unfair and I’m against it.”

Councilmember Joe Garritano [Ward 8] echoed Bowlin’s sentiments after the meeting.

“Calendars will still be available for our residents to pick up at City Hall and local businesses,” Garritano said. “We don’t need to make rash decisions like cutting salaries without giving it appropriate thought. We worked hard to make sure the salaries are comparable with similar cities.”

The council voted to move the issue to a committee for further examination and review.

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