Budget talks continueDepartment heads discuss budget askings for the coming fiscal year
While the department heads of the City of Washington came to the special meeting with the Washington City Council prepared to justify their budget askings for the coming fiscal year Wednesday evening, the council showed support for many of the requests.
The council decided to speak with the department heads in the order that was listed on a worksheet provided by Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson in the council’s budget binder. Hinson said the discussion was meant to be more about the specific elements of the budget. Hinson had given an overview of the budget during a special meeting on Jan. 22.
“Tonight is about the details you might have questions on and would like to probe a little bit further,” Hinson told the council.
During the overview of this year’s budget, Hinson had said that there is little change over the current year’s budget. He also said there would be no increase in the property tax rate in the proposed budget. He said the property tax levy remains $15.82079 per $1,000 of taxable valuation.
Council member Bob Shellmyer said he was impressed that the city would be down in spending from $11 million to $10 million. General fund spending is expected to drop 4.73 percent, or 1.89 percent if the Washington Community Y manages the city’s aquatic center. Revenues to the general fund are projected to be $3,658,591 with expenses projected to be $3,457,201. He questioned if the spending cuts would require a budget amendment later in the year. Hinson said that spending is monitored monthly through the year and it is natural for the city to be over budget during the first part of the year, which includes high payments such as insurance payments. He said this normalizes during the remainder of the year. He said sometimes expenses come up the city doesn’t anticipate, which sometimes require budget amendments.
Council member Bob Shepherd said that he prefers the council having to approve budget amendments instead of all the departments budgeting extra money as a cushion against unknown expenses.
Washington Police Department
The police department budget shows an increase of $23,996, to $1,373,833. Hinson said that the increase is due to the unknown cost of the Washington/Louisa Drug Task Force.
Officer Ron See attended the meeting to answer questions about the budget. Shellmyer asked about the police department’s tactical team, and if it was needed with the sheriff’s department’s tactical team. See said it was needed due to manpower reasons. He also said the department hopes to purchase a new server this year to replace the existing one that was purchased in 2005.
Washington Fire Department
Funding for the fire department decreased $1,765 over last year to $383,736. Of this, the general fund will pay for $196,236. Hinson said the only change is that the department has put in a request for a new brush truck. Hinson advised Chief Tom Wide that it might not be something that will be funded this year. He said that it is mostly used for rural work.
Washington Free Public Library
The library’s budget shows an increase this year of $15,988 to $374,743, with the general fund paying for $293,629 and $81,114 coming from revenues. Library director Debbie Stanton said that the library needs to replace a server and some other technology costs are assumed. She also said in the past these expenses had been paid for with foundation grant money, which is not expected to return in the coming year.
The budget for development services is expected to decline $258 this year to $114,600. Hinson said that $7,000 additional wages are being built into the budget for a code enforcement person. It also assumes the council will approve rental inspections. Hinson said that he would rather build in too much and have some surplus than build in too little and see the city backsliding on its financial progress. The council also discussed the progress of the city’s global positioning system mapping.
Expenses for city parks will increase $14,317 to $270,613. The budget includes $10,000 in additional wages for increased park maintenance. It also includes $7,000 for the municipal band and $17,000 for recreational services with the Washington Community Y. The budget also reflects the Y taking over administration of the city pool with $17,500 of expenses.
Hinson said that the park board has asked for more money for years to keep up with maintenance. He also said the council had identified as a priority being to improve the parks. A parks master plan is being formed.
Expenses for city hall in the proposed budget are down $100,914 to $716,119. Hinson said one reason for the decrease is that the city has recently hired a new attorney that charges by the hour. Hinson said general insurance is down, but he expects it to climb soon because of the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He said projections are that the ACA will make insurance premiums more for less coverage.
Expenses for the cemetery department in the coming year are expected to climb $5,544 to $156,067. Hinson said the budget includes $8,000 for a Gator vehicle and $10,000 for the future construction of another columbarium. Shellmyer originally objected to the Gator, but after discussion said that he may have changed his mind. The Gator was requested last year and not approved.
The water department expenses are projected to be $1,698,266 with revenues of $1,644,532. Hinson said this assumes a 10 percent increase. He said that the department would need significant rate increases over the next several years to fund critical projects. The budget includes partial funding of the north water tower, which is scheduled to be replaced this year.
Sewer fund budget
The budget for the sewer department is for $2,193,215 with revenues of $2,060,027.
After hearing from the department heads, the council approved saving discussion on capital projects for the next special meeting, which will be Feb. 12. Special projects this year include funding paving for South 12th Avenue and East Tyler Street; installing 12-inch water mains in the proposed industrial park; and replacing the north water tower. The council is also expected to discuss special budget requests. The amounts requested by outside entities include the Washington Economic Development Group requesting $21,000; PAWS and More requesting $18,320; Main Street Washington is requesting $15,000; the Washington Tourism Commission requesting $15,000; and $4,000 reserved for fireworks. Much of this is funded with money from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation.