Vernon To Cut $509K And Take Four City Jobs

Vernon City Commissioners are cutting the city's budget by $509,000. The cuts will impact all city offices and take an estimated four or five city jobs. All city residents will also face increased water rates.

In order to avoid bankruptcy, Vernon City Commissioners are acting fast. Different city services, such as, the Vernon Police Department, Fire Department and Municipal Courts will all be impacted by the budget restraints.

The city will cut roughly $100,000 from city street funds. The Vernon Police Department will make cuts totaling $109,000 and Municipal Court will cut funds by $24,000.

Another area forced to cut expenses is the Vernon Fire Department. They are combining two positions by cutting $80,000 from the budget.

Current EMS Coordinator, Kade Long, will soon take over a second position as fire chief. Those two positions are now merged.

"We're trying to do the best we can to not affect operations," said Long.

The department will push back testing that requires funding, and continue taking any measures to help the city make it through the financial troubles.

"I don't think anyone would ever describe cuts as positive, but I think we all, at this point, see it as a necessary function to keep our city moving forward," said Long.

City offices are not the only ones that will experience hardship impacts. The mayor said water rate increases are unavoidable.

"It gets us on the right track," said Joe Rogers, Vernon Mayor. "You know we're still going to have to raise water rates. We've got some other things in the works, so were working there too."

Rogers said the drought has caused city officials to incorrectly record expenses and incomes, leading to budget shortfalls for the past three years.

"To get the debt to where we can make our payments we have to lower our expenses and raise our income," said Vernon Mayor Joe Rogers.

It's the only way to make up for the severe financial impacts, Rogers said, are caused by the on-going drought situation. Rogers said city commissioners are working on that plan while also searching for an additional water source for the city.

The city will also have to work to pay back nearly $1 million dollars the city borrowed from the Employee Benefit Trust. That transfer of funds was not voted and approved by the Vernon City Commissioners. The city will begin paying back that fund immediately, according to Rogers.

Cuts from those city departments will help ease the tax burden for residents, according to city officials. Those steps are just the first step in a process to help the city recover from mounting debt. In the coming weeks, city officials said they will continue talks on what water rate increases will be.

The future for Vernon is hard to predict, according to city officials. But they said the city will make its debt payment this august. They do not know how many more cuts, or jobs will be taken.

Brittany Costello, Newschannel 6