Delaware City Council last week opened hearings on a 2009 budget which, as proposed, calls for cuts to the city work force.

Delaware City Council last week opened hearings on a 2009 budget which, as proposed, calls for cuts to the city work force.

Two council members said they support the planned austerity move.

Four city mechanics -- one of whom will lose his job under the plan -- offered a different view.

They attended Monday's hearing and asked council to consider the added costs and reduction in quality service the city would experience if the proposal is accepted.

Mechanic William Wohrle said the move would force the city to outsource oil changes and maintenance work to city vehicles, which ultimately would increase city costs. He said eliminating a mechanic also would overburden those who retain their jobs.

"We still have the same amount of equipment to repair," he said. "We barely can keep up now.

"In the long run, this is going to cost more time and money. The repair shops, their labor rates are significantly higher."

Delaware city manager Tom Homan has recommended a $22.5-million budget and eliminating 10 full-time city jobs and additional part-time positions. The plan will need council's approval.

On Monday, at least two council members suggested Homan's proposals are steps in the right direction for a city which hasn't been immune to the economic downturn sweeping across the nation.

"This is my 16th budget and I echo (Homan's) feelings on the gravity of it," said Joe DiGenova, council's third-ward representative. "I think staff has done an outstanding job."

Fourth-ward councilman Andrew Brush, who last year levied council's lone vote against a budget which estimated the city would spend $22.27-million while generating only $21.87-million because it wasn't a balanced budget, also voiced support for the direction of the proposed 2009 budget.

"As everyone knows here, I voted against the budget last year because I believed we were facing an economic downturn," he said. "I'm very pleased the (proposed 2009) budget reflects the economic situation."

Homan's proposed 2009 budget lists income of $22.56-million, while allowing for $22.53-million in expenditures. Both figures would be higher than those of 2008, which city officials now estimate will result in $21.82-million in revenues for the city and spending of $22.15-million.

As proposed, the 2009 budget would be balanced only if the city eliminated four positions now filled by full-time employees, as well as six currently vacant full-time jobs. It also calls for cutting two permanent part-time positions which currently are staffed, five interns and the reduction of seasonal hours in several departments.

"This was one of the most difficult budgets that I've put together in my career in local government," Homan said. "This budget has a number of recommendations in there with respect to positions.

"I understand a number of those positions have people in them and I am sensitive to that, but we are in a situation, in my opinion, that warrants the recommendations I made in there."

Council next will discuss the proposed budget during a work session Dec. 1. The public is permitted to attend that meeting and comment.

The budget also is expected to be discussed |at council's Dec. 8 meeting. Homan said he's hopeful an ordinance can be adopted on Dec. 22 or Dec. 29.

nellis@thisweeknews.com