Budget adjustments were the talk of the recent Dodge City commission meeting as it is estimated $3 million would be lost from the 2020 budget for the city.

According to city officials, city administration and staff are taking steps to adjust the budget in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with substantial cuts needing to be made to account for the shortfall in expected revenues.

“Even with all of the cuts on the expenditure side of the ledger, we were still short over $700,000 in cuts that needed to be made,” city manager Cherise Tieben said. “Because we function on very tight operational budgets already, hard decisions had to be made at the City Commission meeting.”

According to the city, line items such as sales tax, property tax, interest, transient guest tax and franchise fees are expected to lag substantially behind the budgeted amounts.

City commissioners gave direction to staff on prioritizing six additional levels of cuts to be made including cutting commission salaries for 2020 along with a 25% reduction in general fund cash reserves.

A one-time incentive increase to the city’s early retirement program for those eligible to retire in 2020 was approved but with the vacancies of those positions by those who retired not being filled for at least a year, forcing other positions to absorb those responsibilities.

Other proposed cuts were the elimination of four positions, possible six- to eight-week furloughs, and no annual longevity bonuses to employees.

According to Tieben, she anticipates the first four levels of additional cuts to be sufficient to relieve the budget pressure, meaning furloughs will not be taking place at this time but will be considered if necessary.

“Understand that these decisions were not made lightly. It was a very painful process. In fact, we were hoping to be able to make some of these employee decisions in the future simply through attrition,” Tieben said. “However, COVID-19 has escalated the necessity of this decision.”

Regarding the elimination of commission salaries, Dodge City Commissioner Kent Smoll said, “Personally, I think we ought to give up our salaries during this time.

“I don’t care, you know, if it's two weeks, six weeks, three months, we didn’t get in this for the pay. We got into this because we really appreciate the city. There's not going to be much savings, I understand. But it’s partly the principle. We are asking employees to give things up; I want to give up that.”

Dodge City Commissioner Brian Delzeit added, “We are looking at elimination positions, and I'm not going to eliminate any position as long as I'm taking a salary.”

To contact the writer, email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com.