Vernon Leaders Battle To Keep Budget On Track

Vernon Leaders Battle To Keep Budget On Track

Vernon city leaders are looking to cut back on spending now that the drought and some unexpected expenses have put the city's budget in hot water.

"Un-reimbursed ambulance runs, we had a lot of expenses related to wildfires this year. It's just been a tuff year. We had to dip in our reserves a little more than we would like to," said Jeff Bearden, the mayor of Vernon.

The drought is also to blame for some of the city's loss in revenue. Water usage went down so this month the city's commission will be voting on possibly adding $3 to water and sewer rates.

Bearden says, "We tried to hold the ground on rate increases but there come a time where inflation and compliance costs for the federal government hit us just like they hit everybody else and so we had to be ready to deal with that."

Another costly problem has been the nitrate levels of the city's water. The water is safe to drink but nitrate levels are slightly higher than what the federal government requires and it has obligated city leaders to lower them at a high cost.

"We've gone from spending $2,000 a month providing bottled water to pregnant women to spending $4,000 a week on salt to run our nitrate disposal plant," said Bearden.

That's why now officials want to lower city expenses by 3%. Bearden says they will look into delaying purchases, replacement of city vehicles and much more.

"Evaluate personnel when we have a vacancy seeing if there's a way we can postpone the hiring or maybe even consolidate the duties into another position," said the mayor.

But Bearden says they're also working hard to get the federal government to lay off on some of its requirements because he says they're unfounded.

"There's got to be a point where enough is enough. You know, the cost is not worth the supposed benefits," said Bearden.

What the city is not prepared to do is raise taxes to make up for lost money. The commission can only discuss a proposal like that when they put together a new budget later this year.

Tanya De Jesus, Newschannel 6