The Smithville Aldermen Thursday night adopted a leaner budget than initially proposed for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
The budget totals almost $6.4 million. Under the new spending plan, the property tax rate will remain the same at 64.9 cents per $100 of assessed value. The city property tax rate is budgeted to generate $953,000.
Water and sewer rates, which were increased last year, will not be changed this year. City water customers pay $7.25 per thousand gallons of usage. Rates for customers outside the city limits pay $10.88 per thousand. Sewer customers both inside and outside the city pay $6.75 per thousand gallons.
In a work session last Thursday night, June 14 city department heads met with the mayor and aldermen to make requests for new spending in the budget. But during an informal meeting the following Monday, June 18, the aldermen concluded that most of the requests could not be met this year.
Although cuts were made in proposed spending in other areas, a one percent cost of living pay raise for city employees has been included in the budget and their longevity bonuses will remain. Raises due employees in the step wage plan will also be funded.
(CLICK LINK BELOW TO VIEW WAGE CHART ACCORDING TO NEW CITY BUDGET. IT DOES NOT REFLECT COLA INCREASE APPROVED BY THE ALDERMEN)
wage chart.pdf (465.18 KB)
For the last couple of years and in four of the last nine years city general fund expenditures have exceeded revenues, largely due to big ticket items like the purchase of a new automated side loader garbage truck and two fire engines (funded from the surplus) but the city has also incurred more expense in meeting its obligations associated with the operation of the new animal shelter as well as the golf course/swimming pool, although the costs of the latter is offset somewhat by revenues it generates for the city.
Last September, the aldermen voted to enter into a one year agreement with RiverWatch Golf & Resort to upgrade and maintain the golf course for a year at a cost to the city of $74,115. The aldermen have not yet decided whether that contract should be renewed. If the deal is not extended, the city will have to look at purchasing or leasing equipment to maintain the golf course itself with the two employees it has there.
The city’s general fund expenditures for the year ended June 30, 2017 exceeded revenues by $324,881 and the overage is expected to be $542,769 come June 30, 2019. However most of that amount, $406,934 is to make a final payment on the purchase of the latest fire truck. If all spending requests had been honored in the new budget as initially proposed, the city could have been in the red by as much as $827,480 by June 30, 2019.
Although the city’s water and sewer budget is projecting an overage of $126,490 for the new year, much of that is due to the funding of depreciation. However, if the city were to run in the red by more than two years in the water and sewer fund, it would have to make cuts or look for more revenue since the state requires the department to stay solvent.
During Monday night’s work session, Janice Plemmons-Jackson, the city’s financial advisor cautioned the mayor and aldermen to keep a close eye on spending going forward or risk having to raise property taxes in a few years.
“We have a flat revenue stream. It has not been going up. If you look at the last 10 years its basically the same other than when we’ve had grants. We have in the general fund $3.6 million (surplus) that has been there for a long time so its not urgent today that we have to fix something but we can’t keep adding (spending) unless you are ready to say in order to give service we’re going to have to raise taxes. That is not a popular thing and I am not saying we need to do that this year but if the (spending) trend continues we will have to,” she said.
After looking for ways to cut spending, the aldermen Monday night eliminated the fifth (top-out) step in the police department’s wage scale across the board. Any officers already at level 5 will be grandfathered. Going forward, officers will top out at level 4 on the wage scale. However the aldermen honored Police Chief Mark Collins’ request to alter the scale for entry level police officers to make their pay more competitive with other departments. Step levels will increase with a starting wage of $15.21 per hour instead of $14.10 per hour followed by 4 steps.
The aldermen cut requests for creating new full time employee positions in the police and fire departments but the half time employee at the animal shelter will be funded on a full time basis. The full time director at the animal shelter, who earns $15.00 per hour, will be raised to the same as entry level pay in other departments. The Chamber of Commerce will also be getting an increase in funding of $5,000 putting the total contribution at $15,000 from the city.
Requests to buy two used police cars and a new pickup truck for the city public works director were denied. The city will buy a used utility truck with a dump bed for the water/sewer department and a newer used vehicle for animal control. New software for police department evidence identification has been budgeted along with $9,500 to install a wrought iron fence around the veterans monument at Green Brook Park. Other Capital outlay items cut from the budget include city hall elevator renovations and a new city hall roof. Those projects will be funded in later years. New signage for the fire department building has been deleted and capital outlay funds in the street department have been cut by $10,000. Tube settlers for the water plant, a $40,000 project, has also been removed from the budget. Fire hydrant repairs and maintenance of $25,000 is being funded in the water and sewer budget and the city plans to replace 400 feet of sewer lines on Bright Hill Road, a $40,000 expense. The city will also purchase 2 air tanks for the sewer plant and buy a tank for the plant at a cost of $1,261.
The aldermen will consider second and final reading passage of the budget at the next regular monthly meeting on Monday, July 2 at 6 p.m. at city hall.