The shaky economy has led to cutbacks in government at all levels, from the federal budget all the way down to the city of Murray. In a meeting this week, Murray Mayor Bill Wells proposed completely gutting various special appropriations from the city’s 2012/13 budget. The drastic step would help fill a half-million dollar gap for next year, caused by increased expenses and declining revenues. Half a dozen projects receive special appropriation funding, including Murray Main Street. MMS Director Deana Wright says city funding is an important part of their budget.
“They’ve given us about a quarter of our budget with our understanding that we have to come up with the rest of it, either through fundraising or membership or donations or whatever we do to bring that number up to what we need to have a budget that is viable to accomplish the goals that we have to accomplish.”
Wright says the goal of MMS is to preserve and support the historic aspects of downtown. But she says some people have raised concerns about the funding MMS receives from the city because they think it’s an unfair advantage for downtown business owners, at the expense of people farther out in the city. Wright says that’s not the case.
“Most of what we do is for the building owners, except we do bring people downtown, and what the business owners do with the thousands of people we bring downtown, is up to them.”
Wright says it’s important for them to continue to receive city funding, not just because they need the money for their projects but because they also need the money to remain accredited.
“One of the things that’s important for the main street program is to show financial commitment from the city. That’s the way we remain certified with the state and the national main street programs and if we don’t have that, then that’s a red flag to them and it could mean that we are no longer a certified main street program.”
Councilman and finance committee member Jay Morgan says the city has been looking at ways to keep funding these programs, but the economy has slowed income for the city, just as it has for city residents. He says the city has tried several ways of raising money, including removing the student exemption for buying a city car sticker.
“It was decided upon by the council to do so to raise money and I anticipate, or at least the Mayor’s office anticipates that it will raise an extra $100 thousand or so for the city budget.”
Morgan says while the city stickers will help fill some gaps in the budget, he doesn’t think they will raise as much money as has been projected. He said, though, the mayor’s proposal to gut the programs isn’t the only option to make up the shortfall. The finance committee proposed a five percent cut.
“I think the special appropriations for the agencies such as Playhouse and Murray Art Guild and the others is probably ok. I think they’ll be funded I don’t see a change in that other than the 5% cut.”
Morgan says other planned cuts are to the city Firefighter and Police Pension fund, though the specifics and legality of cuts are still being considered and debated. But he says any cuts and changes that occur, could be reversed when things look better.
“I don’t think this is something that will last for years and years I just think over the next year or two we’ve got to get our budget deficit down and I think first and foremost we’ve gotta learn to live within our means.”
But Morgan says until the budget outlook improves, locals groups like Murray Main Street will have to tighten their belts.