DANBURY — The utilities department will have one less employee so Danbury can have a balanced budget while increasing insurance coverage payments by $5 per month per worker, council members decided.

The decision comes after officials mulled over several options to increase the city’s funds, including cutting health insurance to city employees, a decision that almost all council members were against.

Mayor Melinda Strong said the city was hit hard by unexpected expenses, which took a toll on the budget.

“We had a water well go out unexpectedly, which cost about $19,000 to repair,” Strong said. “We had a few other things as well. We need to have the money in capital outlay when something major goes wrong with the water or sewer plant.”

Revenue from water meters also fell about $57,000 short of the $230,000 predicted, Strong said.

“Registers weren’t working properly and that caused a shortfall,” Strong said.

While the decision to cut a utility worker will save the city $65,000 plus benefits, some council members raised concerns the budget might require more drastic actions. Relying on the general fund for a cushion, as was done in the past, isn’t a habit that should continue, they said.

”If we don’t budget for utility and we just say we’re gonna take it out of general later, that’s a problem,” Councilwoman Heather Martin said at last week’s meeting. “To not actually budget the utility budget in a real way makes me cringe.”

Martin said the city recently turned down a $200,000 grant for city sidewalk repairs because it didn’t have enough in reserve to meet the required matching funds of $30,000.

“We shortchange the city as a whole and miss out on drainage, sidewalks, etc.,” Martin said at the meeting. “I can research grants all day, but if we don’t have money in general that match, it’s not worth it.”

Martin added the city would benefit from a utility study to see what’s actually being collected.

Strong said at the end of the day, it’s about what money is actually available.

“You can’t spend what you don’t have,” Strong said. “We’re just trying to balance that out.”

Courtney Blackann is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0152.

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