A majority of Grove City Council members approved 2010 budget cuts affecting the lumberyard redevelopment project, data maintenance and next year's city staff Christmas lunch.

A majority of Grove City Council members approved 2010 budget cuts affecting the lumberyard redevelopment project, data maintenance and next year's city staff Christmas lunch.

The Dec. 15 action reduces by $287,000 the expenditures requested by city departments in the proposed $37.6-million budget.

City revenues for 2010 are expected to be flat compared to 2009. Compared to 2008, city general fund revenues fell 6 percent in 2009.

General fund appropriation requests for 2010 were about 5.6 percent higher than 2009.

Major items contributing to the increased requests include a $327,000 increase in health insurance premiums, $150,000 to upgrade networking server storage, $100,000 for an accounting software package and an $118,500 increase in capital projects expenditures, said mayor Richard "Ike" Stage.

"The leveling of revenues is a very important factor that influences all policy decisions in this budget," the mayor said in a letter submitted with the budget proposal.

He said union employees working with the city will receive no step increases again in 2010. They have not received the increases since December 2005, he added.

If necessary, the city's administration might decrease the current salary schedule, increase employee health insurance co-pays and consider laying off current staff members, the mayor said.

Nevertheless, budget requests include the addition of two part-time reception positions at the police department, a management position for the service department and full-time employment for an intern in the development department.

The budget proposal includes no increase for the Fraternal Order of Police. Negotiations between the city and the police union begin Dec. 28, said city law director Stephen Smith.

The mayor said the result of the negotiations is unpredictable.

"We will continue to negotiate contracts that coincide with the economic environment of our city," the mayor said. "Every capital purchase has been and will continue to be made with great scrutiny."

Council members Ted Berry, Maria Klemack-McGraw and Michael Uhrin voted to remove $250,000 requested in 2010 for the lumberyard redevelopment project and partnership with several universities.

They cut $35,000 from the information systems budget and another $2,000 for a Christmas lunch next year.

Council members Larry Corbin and Gregory Grinch voted against the cuts.

Berry, ward 1 member and council president, said the lumberyard and university partnership request should be removed because the city has spent $600,000 for the project and it has made little progress.

The $35,000 cut from the information systems fund would have been used to maintain data in the city's geographic information system.

The development department, however, will hire an intern, which allowed for the reduction of $42,000 from the development fund's part-time salaries, but added $33,000 to its full-time salaries.

The intern can maintain the data for the city, freeing it from hiring an outside engineering firm to do the work, said city development director Chuck Boso.

Mike Turner, city finance director, said the city staff asked him to place a request of $2,000 for the Christmas lunch, although he disagreed with the request.

"I'm known as the local Scrooge," he said. But "some people feel that the city should pay for a Christmas lunch."

Berry moved to slash the request.

"Personally, I don't think the city should pay for it," he said.

Corbin, ward 3 councilman, said $2,000 is a small expense.

"But it's the perception," Berry replied.

Grinch, ward 2 councilman, wanted to keep the expense.

"So, it was the Grinch that stole Christmas who voted (against cutting the request)," the mayor said.