PHOENIX — City officials are looking down the road to 2011 as they try to build budgets that will avoid red ink.

PHOENIX — City officials are looking down the road to 2011 as they try to build budgets that will avoid red ink.

The proposed $7.4 million budget for the year that starts July 1 is a no-frills document that includes no new projects, City Manager Jane Turner said. Three city jobs have been eliminated, and city staff will be their own janitors until further notice. A pay freeze also is in effect.

The proposed budget calls for reducing business hours at city hall to give the smaller staff some uninterrupted time to get their work done. Operating hours at city hall would be changed from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The council will decide when the new hours will take effect.

Turner said the city's budget committee, which includes the council and appointed citizens, "took the bull by the horns" to make difficult cuts and reduce expenses.

The proposed budget is based on the same income as last year, $7.2 million, with a modest increase from payments made by the urban renewal agency for land acquired from the city.

"There were some very, very difficult budget committee meetings," Turner said, "but by looking ahead at a three-year projection they could see how serious our situation could be in just a few years."

That doesn't mean the picture is rosy, she said. "We still could very well be in the red based on the projections we've done. We've still got some hard decisions to make."

An assistant planner and a utility billing clerk will be laid off by June 30, and a contract planning position was eliminated. Those three slots will, in essence, be traded for a full-time planner, but the city still will save $57,000.

Councilman Mike Stitt said he hoped the city would quickly and aggressively seek out additional revenue sources.

"Whenever you say the word 'revenue' in this day and age people run, run, run away, but realities have to be met," he said.

"I think, in the budget process, we did some revenue enhancement without citizens having to pick up the tab," Stitt said. "That said, things are going to get tight and tough, so we have to sit down and take a hard look at the city's situation."

He said thinking about city expenses three years down the line was "a real eye opener."

The proposed budget has been approved by the budget committee, and the council is expected to give it final approval at its June 1 meeting.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.