Portsmouth City Council looks at department cuts

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth City Council reviewed a list of possible cuts to city departments Monday night, to help address an $11.7 million shortfall.

Interim City Manager J. Brannon Godfrey Jr. introduced an eight-page list, totaling $12,748,232 in potential cuts. Council members discussed several different areas on the list, including altering the take-home car program for police and fire departments and freezing vacancies.

“These are hard choices,” Godfrey said.

Mayor Kenny Wright and council members Paige Cherry, Dr. Curtis Edmonds Sr., and Dr. Mark Whitaker said they would oppose cutting from schools. Council members Danny Meeks, William Moody Jr., and Elizabeth Psimas said all options were on the table.

In a proposed budget last month, former Interim City Manager John Rowe wrote that he reluctantly recommended the city increase the real-estate tax by 17 cents. Mayor Wright later said he was extremely concerned about that budget presentation. Earlier this month, city council voted to make Rowe’s end-of-June resignation effective immediately. Godfrey was appointed Interim City Manager.

At Monday’s meeting, Councilman Moody raised the possibility of outsourcing auditing as a form of a cut. The discussion prompted City Auditor Jesse Thomas to talk about his role. Mayor Wright said he would oppose the proposal and council members had mixed opinions on the idea.

WAVY News talked to Mayor Wright before the council went into closed session late Monday.

“We accomplished the first step of actually going through, line item by line item of the recommended pieces from the manager to deliberate, and that’s what this process is all about, and we’re going to pick this up again tomorrow. I thought it was very fruitful. We got a lot of input from all of the members of council, and that’s what our job is,” Wright said.

The public will have an opportunity to comment at the city council meeting Tuesday night.

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