CHAMPAIGN — The six-month delays in service reductions at Fire Station No. 4 in west Champaign and the police department's front desk cost the city about $278,000, but the overall budget picture is beginning to look brighter.
The $278,000 expenditure was not in this fiscal year's budget, so that will come out of the city's "fund balance," an extra amount of money that goes unbudgeted to pay for unexpected expenses.
But on a recurring basis, the savings will be the same: $417,000 annually for the fire engine "brownout" and about $140,000 annually for locking the lobby doors at the police department for 12 hours every night.
Those two cuts were approved early this year as a part of a $2 million package of midyear cuts to narrow a growing gap in the city budget. Over the past several years, the city has completed more than $13 million in budget-balancing measures — most of those were service cuts, and officials also created some new revenues.
But Finance Director Richard Schnuer said the city is set up to finish the current fiscal year, which runs from July through June, with a balanced budget. There will not be a need to make massive mid-year cuts like officials proposed around this time last year.
Next year's budget forecast does not look too bad, either: officials still anticipate they'll need to close a smaller budget gap, but they will not be nearly as short on cash as they have been.
"The budget picture, while it still has some challenges, looks better than it has looked anytime in the past three years," Schnuer said.