It appears Smithville property taxes and water and sewer rates will remain the same for another year.
The Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen this morning (Tuesday) adopted the new 2014-15 budget on first reading. The vote was 3-1. Alderman Shawn Jacobs cast a no vote saying the budget does not meet city needs. "I appreciate the work you all have done in balancing the budget but I don't think it meets the needs of the city therefore I'm voting no," said Jacobs.
Aldermen Tim Stribling, Danny Washer, and Josh Miller voted for the budget. Alderman Jason Murphy was absent.
Second and final reading will follow a public hearing during another special meeting set for Monday, June 30 at 9:00 a.m. at city hall.
(CLICK PDF LINK BELOW TO VIEW 2014-15 CITY BUDGET)
"This is by far the most barebones budget I've worked with, "said City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson. "It's a no frills budget. I'll have to commend this board. Basically all of them told me including the mayor that they wanted a balanced budget and that's what we did. We had to cut out some of the projects we were looking to do this year and they are going to be put on hold until we find ways to fund those projects. Our revenues are not going up or down. Expenditures are the only thing going up. Until we find a way to increase revenues we need to cut back as much as we can without having to use city surpluses to compensate for any revenues we're not getting," said Hendrixson in an interview with WJLE after the meeting Tuesday.
During the meeting, Alderman Jacobs said the city should begin thinking in terms of incremental property tax increases to keep up with inflation. "Unfortunately we can't make improvements in the city as a result of every year or almost every year the consumer price index goes up and we don't have any way of accounting for that. Personally, I think it would be good to take a percentage of the consumer price index and applying that to our property tax rate every year because one of these days we're going to have to raise property taxes. Instead of a small incremental increase every year it's going to be a big increase. I'd rather do an incremental increase every year. I know most people don't appreciate that logic but with government, that's the way it is and I think we are behind so many cities our size in the services we provide them," said Alderman Jacobs.
The new budget totals $6-million 504-thousand 600 dollars. Under the new spending plan, the property tax rate will remain the same at .6490 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Water and sewer rates are to remain the same. City water customers will continue to pay $5.00 per thousand gallons of usage. Rates for customers outside the city limits are $7.50 per thousand gallons. The rate the city charges the DeKalb Utility District remains at $2.67 per thousand gallons. City sewer customers will continue to pay $5.00 per thousand gallons plus the flat usage rate of $3.62.
Hourly and salaried city employees will get a 1.5% cost of living pay raise except for police officers who are due to get a raise under the eight step wage scale for all hourly employees in the department.
When the fiscal year started July 1, 2013, the general fund was projected to be $386,608 in the red by June 30, 2014. City officials have revised the deficit projection down to $365,112 but as of April 30, 2014, the city was in the black by $251,517 in the general fund according to the proposed budget. Projections are that the general fund will end in the black by June 30, 2015 by $4,906.
Hendrixson said the actual deficit by the end of this fiscal year 2013-14 (June 30th) should be less than the projection of $365,112. "We took out $150,000 we had put in for paving which isn't going to happen before July 1. When you take that out and a few other things we have the projections down to a little over $200,000 in the red for this fiscal year but we have a good cash surplus in the general fund and water and sewer," he said.
The water and sewer fund, at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, 2013 was expected to finish in the red by $62,280 as of June 30, 2014. The deficit projection now is expected to be $60,149. But as of April 30, 2014, the water and sewer fund was $88,510 to the good. Projections are that the water and sewer fund will end in the black June 30, 2015 by $14,882.
Proposed capital outlay expenditures in the general fund for the new year come to $1,002,000 but $904,000 of that is for airport projects, which are largely funded by grants.
Specific projects are as follows: Legislative- $5,000; Parks and Recreation- $5,000; Public Works-Buildings and Grounds (unspecified)-$10,000; City Hall Building (Unspecified) $10,000; Fire Protection (Pagers) $10,000; Street Department (Unspecified) $25,000; Police Department (Police Car)$28,000; Animal Shelter-$5,000; and Airport-Lighting Rehabilitation $427,500, Fuel Farm $330,500, Hangar Door $50,000, and Land Acquisition $96,000 for a total of $904,000.
According to Hendrixson, a home near the airport is in the flight path and will eventually have to be removed. The state provides grant funds to the city to help acquire the property. "There's a house (currently being rented by the owner) on Allen's Chapel Road that is in our flight path according to the FAA. The state funds monies to municipalities to go out and acquire properties (such as this). We'll have to demolish the house once it's been acquired through the state and it will become city property. The state is in the appraisal phase and then the property has to be surveyed," said Hendrixson.
Proposed water and sewer fund capital outlay expenditures include $55,000 for a water service truck, $150,000 for sewer plant improvement design fees, $410,000 for the automatic meter readers project, which will be funded largely through a loan/grant program
Although these capital outlay projects are budgeted, they all may not be funded during the year.