By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
The City of Portsmouth has until the end of 2013 to erase its $1.4 million deficit budget. That was the message city officials received when they met Tuesday with representatives from the State Auditor’s office.
Portsmouth Mayor David Malone had said at Monday night’s City Council meeting that he expected the current deficit to be eliminated within three to five years. That came to light when Malone said the goal of the new financial advisory committee is not to come up with a certain amount of savings in the budget this year, but to come up with savings to cut into the $1.4 million budget over a three- to five-year period.
“We have found some things we can work on,” Malone said. “And we are pretty confident that this deficit will be eliminated in three to five years — probably in three years.”
Tuesday’s meeting left no doubt was is expected by State Auditor David Yost.
“Our plan basically needs to come up with a two-year resolution,” Portsmouth City Auditor Trent Williams said. “We have to be out of it.”
The threat of additional state declarations, such as changing the current Fiscal Caution to Fiscal Watch or even Fiscal Emergency, looms over the city operation since Yost first visited the city about the deficit.
“Really what David Yost said is that he wants to done this year,” Williams said. “But after our conversation today (Tuesday), we all realize that that may not be possible. Even with our best effort that’s going to be a stretch. What I wanted to know was, what is the plan that I and this committee come up with need to say? And it’s basically, ‘within the next two years how are you going to handle this deficit?’”
Williams said that means the city, which had come up with a way to have a $250,000 surplus at the end of the year through cuts made at Saturday’s special budget session — but without tackling the existing $1.4 million deficit — will have to do a lot more work on the current budget to get much closer to 50 percent of the budget deficit this year, leaving 50 percent for 2013. $250,000 would only be about one-third of the way the city has to go within this year.
“I don’t think it necessarily means $700,000 each year, but it was very clear that it doesn’t mean $200,000 this year and $1.2 million next year,” Williams said. “It was very near 50 percent this year.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com.