Johnstown should cut 14 jobs – saving more than $500,000 as a result – in an effort to balance the city’s 2009 budget, City Manager Curt Davis said Friday.

Davis’ proposed spending plan for next year contains some good news for residents: No property-tax hike.

But that means officials in the financially floundering city must find money elsewhere. Davis’ answer: Cut his own salary by $10,000 and eliminate or not fill 14 city positions, though he’s not yet saying which jobs will go.

“We have some ideas, but we want to discuss them first,” Davis said, adding that he hopes to make most cuts through attrition.

Next year’s budget was expected to be painful. But the situation became worse when officials disclosed that the city had a deficit of up to $5 million for 2008. Davis is lobbying for a $5 million loan to take care of this year’s bills, and he already has factored payments for that loan into next year’s budget.

Officials expect a few new or increased revenues to provide some bright spots.

That includes property tax proceeds from the newly constructed Greater Johnstown Technology Park and ITSI Biosciences building; a slightly higher payment in lieu of taxes from Conemaugh Health System; and a garbage-collection contract that no longer must be subsidized by city coffers.

But those gains are modest compared to expenditures:

• Hospitalization costs increasing by 25 percent, or about $250,000.

• Pension obligations rising by $28,831.

• A 3-percent raise due for firefighters and police officers as well as staff covered under the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

• A jump in fire department overtime “due to the arbitration award that adds another man to each shift,” Davis said.

• Increasing costs for gas, utilities and road salt.

As a result, Davis wrote in a memo to council, “some tough choices were made in the best interest of the city and putting it on the path to financial recovery.”

Davis said “all departments are being looked at” for job cuts.

City Hall administrators will face some restrictions, though.

For example, the fire department’s union contract has a minimum-staffing requirement, and the police department’s labor deal prohibits layoffs.

However, police manpower can be reduced through attrition. That already has happened, and a police union representative said more retirements are expected next year.

Davis said he is voluntarily suggesting that his own salary be decreased by $10,000, which would reduce his 2009 paycheck to $65,000. He also accepts no hospitalization coverage from the city.

“When you have to make hard decisions, you have to be part of it,” Davis said.

As a way to provide additional savings, Davis is proposing no wage increase for all nonunion employees.

Through cost-cutting, officials hope to end a recent pattern of carrying delinquent bills into the next budget cycle.

“The city will live within its means,” Davis wrote in his budget memo.

Council took no action on the budget proposal Friday.

They wouldn’t have been able to anyway: The governing body no longer had a quorum present when Councilmen Jack Williams and Bill Gentile walked out of the meeting, with Williams protesting that the budget had not been presented properly.

The budget will be discussed at upcoming council meetings and must be approved before year’s end.

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