The city council held two special called meetings this past week to make final adjustments to the budget ending June 30 and approving a budget for the incoming fiscal year.
Mayor Pam Hoots noted that the budget includes more than $494,000 in retirement costs, an increase of $85,000 this year.
Costs have also increased because the city has not been able to use county inmates to help with the sanitation department. In addition, landfill rates continue to increase.
The budget includes a 3 percent pay increase across the board for employees. The increase was not mentioned during the vote on the budget and Hoots said she checked with city attorney Derrick Helm and decided a specific vote on the increase is not necessary. In the past, council members would vote on any pay increases.
The new budget includes more than $105,000 in additional expenses for salaries across all departments compared to the previous year.
Gas rate increase included in budget
The new budget includes a higher rate per unit of gas for the city’s gas customers. The revenue shows an increase of nearly $302,000, based on increasing the unit rate from 33 cents to 44 cents.
The council did not specifically vote on the new rate, and when asked following the meeting, Helm reviewed pertinent documents and said that the council would need to put the increase into effect by a vote during a meeting scheduled for next week.
Gas customers pay a $12 base rate plus the actual cost of the gas and a “per unit” fee. Ann Marie Austin, an employee in the gas department, provided some examples of the impact of the increase from 33 cents per unit to 44 cents per unit.
As an example, a three-bedroom house in the city used 144 units in February and 30 units in July, so the residents would see an increase of $15.84 in February and $3.30 in July.
A local restaurant that uses gas for cooking uses from 430 to 537 units and would see a rate increase of $47.30 to $59.07 per month.
A large, older home in the city used 320 units in February and would see an increase of $35.20 a month, but would only see a 10-cent increase during the summer.
A dorm on the campus of Lindsey Wilson College used 1282 units during February, which would be an increase of $141.02.
Garbage carryover drops after truck purchase
The garbage fund is showing a revenue of $690,000, up from $550,200 from 2021. The carryover, however, is expected to drop from $274,993 to $128,3488. The budget includes $175,000 in expenses for the purchase of a new garbage truck.
Council member Robert Flowers voiced his concern about the reduction of the carryover, and said another year with another truck purchase “and we are going to be out of business.”
The city recently reviewed usage by commercial customers and adjusted rates based on usage. In addition, they found some customers were not being billed and corrected that.
The city received $1,099,000 from payroll tax revenue for the past fiscal year and is estimating $1 million for the new year.
ABC funds – revenue from taxing the sale of alcohol – are expected to stay the same, at $136,000.
The city’s general fund begins with a carryover of $1.3 million and ends with $922,798.
Not built into the budget is any payment toward a $525,000 loan that is part of an economic development project. The city is receiving a $1 million grant and borrowing $525,000 to purchase the former Majestic Yachts property. The land will be leased to Synergy Food Group. Those loan and lease payments are not yet in the budget.
Also not yet in the budget is the first half of more than $856,000 the city will receive through federal relief funds. Guidelines for using the funds are still not complete and Hoots said the funds will be budgeted once it is clear where they can be used. The funds must be used by 2024.
Also during a special called me last Friday, the council approved a 90-day option on property located at 418 Hudson St. The city hopes to receive a grant to use toward purchasing the property for the city’s road department and parks and recreation.
All council members were in attendance except Craig Dean, who joined the second meeting via telephone.
By Sharon Burton