Arlington council gives budget preliminary approval

ARLINGTON -- The City Council preliminarily approved Arlington's $198 million general fund budget for the next fiscal year Tuesday, a spending plan that includes cutting 33 employee positions and scaling back some city services.

By reducing the number of employees -- only eight of the jobs being eliminated are filled -- the city will save nearly $1.7 million in salaries and associated costs, officials said.

To help offset a $10.3 million budget shortfall, the city is also expected to outsource mowing of parks, scale back inspections of multifamily housing, and eliminate a program dedicated to tracking nearly 2,000 vacant residential and commercial properties for code violations.

After Tuesday night's first reading of the budget, Mayor Robert Cluck described the proposed as moderate.

"We have the least number of cuts of big cities in this part of the country," Cluck said. "That's because we are lean and conservative."

Other savings measures include reducing cost-of-living adjustments to retiree pension plans, which will save more than $500,000, and forgoing employee pay raises for a third consecutive year, City Manager Jim Holgersson said.

Next Tuesday, the council is scheduled to officially adopt the budget and property tax rate, which will stay the same for an eighth consecutive year.

Additional layoffs and more dramatic service cuts, including reducing library hours, eliminating the city's hazardous-waste pickup and outsourcing burglar alarm response to armed security guards instead of police officers, will be considered during fiscal 2012 if tax revenue doesn't improve, Holgersson has said.

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639