By ALLEN LAMAN
JASPER — With Jasper’s budget hearings looming, Mayor Dean Vonderheide has issued a request to the leaders of each civil city department: Devise plans that cut their 2020 budget amounts by 10% before the city’s 2021 budget hearings begin next month.
The full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be known for a while. But Vonderheide said in a Wednesday interview that not overplanning is important as leadership moves ahead.
Revenue from property taxes is projected to drop slightly in 2020 and 2021. A more immediate loss has also been experienced in another fund.
“Now, when you talk about our motor vehicle tax, that was more immediate,” Vonderheide explained. “Because that’s a tax that we receive money ongoing. I think it’s on a month-to-month basis. That will go down — it’s more volatile — so it’s really difficult for long-term planning. And that’s why we targeted 10% reduction.”
Jasper’s 2020 budget came in at about $23 million. Vonderheide said the 10% reduction he’s asking departments to prepare for this year does have some flexibility.
“I’m not saying we’ll hit the 10%, but they’re prepared to come in with that,” Vonderheide said of the city leaders. “That’s the key.”
Department heads understand, the mayor said, and they feel, in most cases, that the cut is achievable.
In addition to the funds mentioned above, the city also pulls in a big chunk of its budget dollars from local income taxes. Smaller chunks come through other sources, like casino and lodging taxes. The diversity of all the funding streams are “quieting some of the burden,” Vonderheide said.
“What I will say is that our blend of funding, our revenue streams, because we’re not tied to any one, that we have diversity on our revenue streams, it helps us as an operation,” Vonderheide said. “It helps us in the fact that we’re not just dependent on that one.”
The city’s conservative spending will help, too. Jasper has held minimums in both its EDIT fund and rainy day fund, meaning the city could use those funds to maintain operations.
“But we don’t want to dip into those,” the mayor said. “Because I don’t know what’s ahead of us. There may be something even worse than COVID-19. So, we’re trying to be as conservative as we can and still move the community forward.”
He continued: “The projects we have underway will be completed, there’s no question about that. It will have an impact on the number of new projects that we undertake, and the size of the projects.”
He later added that he does not want to cut back on the city’s road maintenance and sidewalk updating program.
The Jasper Common Council and department leadership met this morning to prioritize future city projects. A full story regarding that meeting will appear in Monday’s Herald.
Jasper’s budget hearings will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 18, and Tuesday, Aug. 25. The first meeting will run from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at City Hall, 610 Main Street, and the second meeting’s time has not been set.