WALLA WALLA - Once again, a major budget deficit is threatening the closure of the Pioneer Park Aviary, as city officials look for ways to cut costs to make up for a $1.3 million projected annual revenue deficit for the 20011-12 biennium budget.
"When I was told, I was like in shell shock again. I knew they were talking about different things, but I hadn't heard anything about the aviary. But then I heard about it," aviary caretaker Joanna Lanning said.
The city's Parks & Recreation department, which funds the aviary, is now facing a $130,390 - 5.6 percent - cut to its 2011 budget and a $100,750 - 4.27 percent - cut in 2012.
The aviary operates on an annual budget of just under $50,000. But the true cost to run the facility is probably closer to $60,000 per year, and that doesn't include the numerous repairs needed at the facility, some of which were caused by the windstorm of 2008, said City Council member Shane Laib, who is the council's liaison with the Parks & Recreation Department.
"You know personally I don't' want it to go away. I love the aviary. And I love what it does for our community. But it is hard. We are in tough times. And it's a proposal. Nothing is final," Laib said.
The aviary's fowl aren't the only ones facing the budget chopping block.
Other departments slated for cuts next year include police, fire and support services, who will see cuts ranging from 4.08 percent to 7.35 percent for the next two years.
But the city department that is looking at the largest cut so far is the library, which could get hit with a 24 percent cut to its budget for the next two years. The large cut is due mostly to the unpredictability of the city's reimbursement contract with the Walla Walla County Rural Library District. But even if a deal is approved, the library will still see major cuts to its budget, said Beth Hudson, interim library director.
She added that with the preliminary figures, which are based on no Rural Library District reimbursement, the library could lose 3.25 full-time equivalencies, which would equate to being open 10 hours less per week.
"Everybody has to take some cuts, whether we get the rural contract or not, because we have to make up for that 1.3 or 1.4 million so everybody has to make some cuts," Hudson said.
In the weeks to come, Council members and staff will be working through the proposed 2011-12 budget at council work sessions. Eventually the budget will go to the regular Council meeting for a public airing, with a hearing expected for Nov. 17.
Public testimony regarding the proposed budget may also be given at work sessions, and the next work session review of the budget will be at the Oct. 13 at 4 p.m. at the Council Chambers, 15 N. Third Ave.
The first public copy of the proposed budget is expected to be available after Oct. 1.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.