On Friday, July 7th, the Finance Commission met to discuss the City budget for the upcoming 2017-2018 year. Figuring out the budget begins in the early spring, as department heads determine needs for the upcoming year. Then, the City Council adds parameters to the exercise, and the City Manager and the Finance Manager compile a preliminary budget. Once the Finance Commission reviews it, they make a recommendation to the City Council to address at the budget workshop, which takes place in mid-July. At the end of the workshop, the City Council proposes a budget which gets reviewed publicly in September. This process is fundamental to the annual activities of the City and is important to watch.
This year, the City Council’s direction to the City Manager had three parts; do not increase taxes, do not increase staff, and do not reduce services. After the budget workshop this year, the City council ended up proposing a budget near $23 million. This budget fit all the criteria set by the Council and also included a 15% increase in healthcare costs and a 2% salary increase across the board.
The City Council was able to do this without raising the millage rate because property values went up 7.7%, bringing in an additional $454,000 in property tax revenue. This and other adjustments cover the increased personnel costs.
While the City Council made this proposal, the Finance Commission spent most of its time talking about the infrastructure. The roads, pipes, drainage, storm water systems, and physical plants. The City is roughly $1.5 million-$2 million, per year, behind in its infrastructure budget. The Finance Commission suggested that the City reconsider the Storm Water Utility, which past councils had developed and recommended.
A Storm Water Utility is a standalone method that communities use to raise funding for the construction and maintenance of storm water control systems. This process would raise about $900,000 and cost residents about $5.00 per month on their water bill.
If the Storm Water Utility were passed, it would focus on repair, replacement, and enhancement of a major part of the City’s infrastructure. This is a great, workable solution to the infrastructure issue.