As the City of Shrewsbury prepares to unveil more details about the proposed redevelopment of Kenrick Plaza and construction of a Walmart Supercenter, Mayor Felicity Buckley is warning that the plan is necessary to avoid deep cuts to city services.
At a Board of Alderman work session in May, Buckley said the drop-off in revenues that left the city $80,000 short in its general fund in 2010 will continue in 2011. She said the deficits have forced the city to not only make cuts, but caused other problems as well.
"It has also put on hold acquisitions and maintenance," Buckley said. "We have put off buying three new police cars, we did not give salary raises and we cut a lot of part-time work."
The comments came as the board discussed the format for a public question-and-answer session about Kenrick Plaza later this month. The public meeting will provide new details about the redevelopment, including a conceptual site plan that will preview what it might look like. The exact date of the meeting has not yet been set.
The redevelopment has become a for the city, with residents voicing strong support for and against it at multiple Board of Alderman meetings. While the potential costs or benefits of a Walmart in the area have proven debatable, there's little doubt about the city's financial outlook.
According to the city's by Hochschild, Bloom and Company, sales tax—the largest single category of revenue for the city—has been steadily declining. The audit states general fund sales tax revenue has declined a total of 14 percent since 2007, while overall tax revenue dropped by 2.4 percent from 2009.
The result is that Shrewsbury could face an even bigger deficit this year. The 2011 budget (PDF) posted on the city's website predicts a general fund deficit of about $180,000. It also predicts that six of the city's 11 sources of tax revenue will decline.
Regardless of what steps the board may take in the future, the May meeting displayed that years of budget deficits have already exacted a toll. When the aldermen asked how many mics would be available for the question-and-answer session, a city staff member informed them there would be none—they had all broken down.
"I haven't replaced them because you told me to cut everything," the staff member said.
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