City departments making plans to cope with anticipated budget losses

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Finances continue to take a turn for the worse for the city of La Crosse.

“The cuts are deep and substantial,” La Crosse Public Library director Shanneon Grant said.

As part of the city executive budget team’s reduction plan, several of the city’s departments are expecting hundreds of thousands of dollars to be lost from their operating budgets.

The city’s budget reduction plan lists about $4.5 million in losses, which is almost seven percent of the city’s budget.

The La Crosse Public Library would take the biggest hit, as the reduction plan would strip the library of $525,000.

“Our total operating budget was a little over $5 million,” Grant said.

Grant says reductions to hours and staff are the most likely outcomes.

“Unfortunately because our staff is our greatest asset, it’s also staffing costs with any organization, is our largest expenses,” Grant said. “We have a total of 73 folks who work for us. Probably about half of them are part-time.”

The Street and Parks and Recreation Departments would each face $500,000 budget losses. $400,000 would get taken away from the La Crosse Center. And the Police and Fire Departments would each lose $100,000.

La Crosse Center director Art Fahey says some of the arena’s maintenance, repairs and staffing would be affected by the budget cuts.

“The construction project is its own entity,” Fahey said. “The guys are little bit ahead of schedule, which is good. And COVID allowed them to get into some parts of the building that they might not have gotten into as early as they had.”

However, the pandemic could not have had worse timing for the center’s finances.

“When we closed up, we were right in the key part of our year,” Fahey said. “It’s a good collage of conventions, and trade shows, and banquets, and receptions that we have. And then entertainment. And all of that went away.”

Fahey says he’s hoping events scheduled for later this year are given the green light, but realizes decisions will swerve for the time being.

“Everything is on the table that we’ve got to take a look at here, and make a decision on where we got to go to make this balance for 2020,” Fahey said.

The city is hoping to save some money in the reduction plan as well.

A hiring freeze would save La Crosse more than $560,000.

And a healthcare premium holiday would save $750,000.

The city’s executive budget team will present the plan to the common council Thursday. Council member Jessica Olson says she expects the council will vote on it.