Wichita's red ink is forcing cuts

Wichita ended 2008 in the red for the first time in five years, and city leaders will slow hiring, delay street projects and reduce part-time staff to make up for the shortfall.

"These are troublesome trends, and they carry into 2009," finance director Kelly Carpenter told City Council members Tuesday.

Fourth-quarter numbers show a deficit of nearly $600,000, Carpenter said.

Revenue in several sectors -- property tax, sales tax, franchise fees, gas tax, investment earnings and more -- were below projections.

Mayor Carl Brewer said during his State of the City address last month -- and reiterated Tuesday -- that new City Manager Robert Layton will slow hiring of all non-public-safety positions for at least a month, limit overtime and tap reserve funds to cover deficits.

The city also will reduce part-time staff by one-third and delay bidding out street maintenance projects until late spring or early summer.

On Tuesday, Brewer urged city staff to think carefully about hiring even after the unofficial 30-day freeze.

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