At a work session this week following their regular meeting, the Lubbock City Council took the first steps in piecing together the budget for the next fiscal year.

In a presentation, City staff outlined some budget challenges which the City faces in fiscal year 2012-13.

These challenges include an extra $700,000 to increase police staffing to reach 2 officers per 1,000 population in Lubbock. To reach that goal would involve hiring 7 more officers than what is currently budgeted for this year.

$1.8 million is needed to staff Fire Station #18 and the 3rd Battalion. Fuel cost increases for the City are expected to cause a rise of $650,000, as the current contract with set fuel prices expires in December of this year. The contract currently in effect locked in fuel prices at $2.32 for regular unleaded and $2.43 for diesel.

Fuel costs for Citibus are also expected to increase as well by a project $650,000. The City of Lubbock uses approximately 2.5 million gallons of fuel per year for all departments, including Citibus and the Lubbock Police Department.

A reduced attrition rate will cost an estimated $1.85 million, and a one percent raise for city employees would cost $740,130.

These stated items lead to an increase of more than $6,465,000, which is 5.26 percent of the roughly $124 million general fund.

The City is also expecting to lose a minimum of $680,000 in state and federal grants, much of which would come from the Lubbock Public Library system.

District 5 Councilwoman Karen Gibson discussed a possible focus on core services, but District 4 Councilman Paul R. Beane brought up a disparity between people and what may be considered as core services.

“One person’s core service is another man’s frivolous activity, and vice versa. A lot of people look at frivolous services for the City such as libraries,” said Beane. “The 260,000 people that visited the Mahon Library downtown, they don’t think that the libraries are frivolous services…I think once we get past public service, transportation, and infrastructure, I do agree that everything else is on the table, but I think that you’ll find from public reaction that there’s a whole lot of things on our proposed list that people think are core services, and not necessarily frivolous.”

“We’re going to be faced with some tough, tough choices, and I understand there’s a divergence of opinion as to how you fund those choices, but I’m really just very pleased that we’ve finally got to this work session item,” said District 1 Councilman Victor Hernandez. Hernandez has mentioned in past meetings that he supports raising the tax rate.

The Council did not come to any sort of consensus on which direction the City staff should take with the budget and tax rate, except that they want more time to consider other numbers that will be made available later this month.

Mayor Tom Martin discussed the issue, saying “the budget process every year is one of ‘we want this, but we only have this to pay for it,’ and it has to be balanced, and that’s why we pay a city manager a very good salary.”

“I feel certain of one thing; that we will have a budget on October 1 of 2012, it will be balanced, and we will preserve the important things that the City does. There may be some things cut, there may be some things added. The numbers will certainly change between now and then, but we will actually be alright,” Martin said.

The deadline to adopt the 2012-13 tax rate and budget is September 15th, and they go into effect on October 1st.