By Paul Minnis, The Republic

   Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong has ordered each of his department heads tentatively to cut 5 percent from their ope ra t i n g b u d ge t s and submit to him a list of public service challenges those cuts would create.

   Armstrong's order comes the day Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a bill that provides additional homestead credits this year and caps property tax bills.
   User fees also are being considered, according to the mayor's letter.
   The department heads' cuts and lists are due on the mayor's desk March 27. Armstrong said he would present the proposals to the public to decide which cuts to make official.
   "Services will be cut," he said.
   Armstrong had warned the state's tax reformation plan would rob the city of funds, forcing it to cut about $3.1 million from its $46 million budget.
   He said everything from police officers to firefighters to trash collections were eligible for cuts.
   Essential services could be switched from property taxes to user fees. Armstrong said switching trash and sanitation routes was one of the options considered.
   He said the cost of pickup would be no more than what property owners pay now on their bills.
   "We will not compromise on delivering essential services to residents," he said in the letter. "We will continue police patrols, we will staff our fi re stations, handle the sewer and water utilities, pick up the trash, repair streets, remove snow, maintain our parks and perform all other necessary functions in our community."
   Armstrong said the 5 percent cut in the total city budget is the worst-case scenario. The new law is more than 800 pages, and he does not have a complete understanding of the financial impact.
   He said no cuts would be made until that understanding was clear.

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