AUBURN (CBS13) – While many cities are struggling to cut back, the city of Auburn finds itself in a unique position with millions of extra dollars in its reserves.
During the housing boom, many cities spent big. However, when construction came to a halt, the bills did not. But in Auburn, city officials went against popular opinion and held on to the cash instead of writing checks.
“The state has a history of taking money from local governments, so we didn’t want Auburn to be an ATM. So we’ve always been careful,” said Auburn Mayor Kevin Hanley.
But being careful did not guarantee immunity. During the recession, tax revenues fell as shops closed up, but those reserves did keep services going through the tough patches.
“There were signs even 10, 15 years ago that some things were coming down the road that were going to essentially be impactful and Auburn did something about it,” said Auburn Chamber of Commerce President Wayne Manning.
Tightening the fiscal belt now means the city will have more than $3 million in reserve. It’s the largest in almost 10 years.
So what did Auburn do that other cities didn’t?
It limited pension increases, gave city workers a 10 percent pay cut, promoted tourism and encouraged shopping at local stores.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” small business owner Linda Robinson said. “We have good leadership, a good city manager and we have good finances. So you have to have faith that they are going to do the right thing.”
Ten years ago the council stashed away enough money to cover half of the city’s expenses. With the recession fading, the future looks even brighter. There are fewer empty spaces along Main Street, and Manning says that 80 of the city’s largest companies are expanding.
“In past recoveries it has been like one or two industries leading the way; here we are seeing growth and expansion across the board,” said Manning.
With new national medical laws set to kick in soon, city officials say they may need to begin even saving more.