By Wyatt Goolsby
PECOS - The budget is final in Pecos, but not after officials slash all kinds of programs. They've lost 2 million dollars in property taxes, and their sales tax is down by nearly a half. However, there are two bright spots in all this: no city employees will lose their jobs, and the tax rate will not change.
"Everybody talks: we had a great 2008, but 2009, just the bottom fell out," Gerald Tellez, the Mayor Pro Tem, said on Thursday.
It only took a few minutes to approve this year's budget in Pecos. What you couldn't see at Thursday's Council meeting is the hours of work that went in to balancing it. In the last year, Pecos has been plagued with a down oil economy and some of the highest unemployment rates in West Texas.
"We have a balanced budget," Tellez explained. "We are not going to go over budget, and whatever fat we have, just remove that fat."
So what gets cut? Any plans to remodel, including City Hall, the Zoo, as well as the local Senior Center are all put on hold.
"We're going to try and get a handle on our overtime, on our Police Department, and our Ambulance Department," Tellez added.
Council Members said despite recent rumors, they are not laying off any EMS employees.
EMS Director Joe Tollett said their crews serve numerous counties in the Basin, and they need to stay on as paid employees. However, the Department, like others in Pecos, are looking for ways to save money.
"Instead of buying new equipment that we would like to have, our old equipment is serviceable, it does a good job for us," Tollett said. "It's just things like that. If you've got the money you buy new equipment, and if you don't, you get by with the equipment that you have until times get better and you can get new equipment."
Most of the budget cuts mentioned came from the General Funds, which is separate from the city's water and sewer services. Those will basically stay the same. Several Council members and residents have told us they are optimistic the situation will improve, especially with the oil business. Until then, they're trying to keep the spending down.