Austin city manager Marc Ott has asked city departments to cut their budgets for fiscal 2010 by 7% to compensate for an expected drop of 5% in sales tax collections.

Ott said every department has been asked to suggest reductions that produce “meaningful, sustainable reductions to our budget.”

That could include combining some agencies, raising fees, and eliminating some jobs, he said. The cuts will fall heaviest on departments financed from Austin’s general fund.

“To develop sustainable reductions, we will need to evaluate all of our current services, including our vacant positions, and make difficult decisions about what services we will continue to provide and at what levels,” Ott said in a memo to city department heads.

The proposed reductions are due by May 22, with Ott providing recommendations to the City Council in June. Austin reduced departmental budgets by 2% in fiscal 2009.

Officials told the council in mid-April that Austin will face a $29.6 million shortfall next year between expenses and revenues. Gaps of between $24 million and $30 million a year are expected over the next five years.

“We need to begin to address our long-term struggle with rising costs coupled with inadequate revenues,” Ott said in the memo. “So I encourage you to look for permanent changes — find long-term solutions instead of short-term fixes.”


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