NORWALK — The runaway-spending buck stops here. Well, almost.
The City Council--alerted to almost $500,000 in money spent that was not budgeted--agreed Monday to take a closer look at delaying major projects to balance its $25-million budget over the next six months.
But at the same time, the council approved more than $9,000 in non-budgeted expenditures, including $3,300 for the Norwalk Moose lodge to have its arthritis telethon on cable television.
The council realized it had overspent while discussing options for funding several social service organizations whose city donations were tied to federal revenue-sharing funds.
This fall, the city was notified that its federal revenue-sharing allocation would be less than the city had anticipated. The city then notified the social service agencies that their funding could be reduced or even canceled.
The council pledged this week to find alternative sources to continue funding the agencies through June, but only approved funding through Jan. 12. What happens after that could depend on what happens at a budget session the council agreed to hold on Jan. 10. A citywide computer study was also put on hold until after the budget session, when the council will determine how to pay for spending that is surpassing revenue.
"We've got to simply learn to bite the bullet," said Mayor Robert White, noting that the council needs to make sure the city would "be able to make it through the year and not go down the hole."
Councilman Cecil N. Green said certain projects, such as a proposed community center, may have to be put on hold to fund those programs that need immediate attention. He said he would "cancel other services in the city" to fund social service agencies. Those social services include everything from drug counseling to day care for children.
So far, the City Council has approved $485,000 in budget adjustments--expenditures not included in this year's budget, City Treasurer Wiley Jung said.
"The problem is we cannot find a revenue source to pay for the expenditures," he said.
Loss of Revenue Sharing
The city will lose all revenue-sharing funds next fiscal year, city officials said, because Congress discontinued the no-strings-attached grants in September. Those funds have normally amounted to $800,000. Although the city anticipated $800,000 in federal funds this year, only $327,000 was budgeted, Jung said, with part designated for social service agencies and the rest to help pay for the contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"We're not going to get any more money," Jung said.
Among the major expenditures voted by the council but not budgeted were $187,000 for a baseball field at Gerdes Park; $115,000 for a study on constructing sound walls along sections of the Santa Ana Freeway; $62,000 for employee dental benefits, and $45,000 to help pay for a city maintenance facility.
Jung said the council has three options: Find an additional revenue source to pay for the expenditures, cut spending, or dip into the city's $13-million reserve, most of which has been slated for special projects.
"We're now in a position where we have to reallocate, rethink and redo almost every part of our budget," said Green, who referred to the special budget-cutting meeting as "D-Day."