City Budget Could Be A Hit Or It Could Be A Miss

By Jon A. Brake

Editorial

It happened again.

Mayor Bruce Snead and Commissioner Roger Reitz did not get their way with the 2002 Budget and they didnít like it, again. Both came out of the July 24th Budget hearing with red eyes and running noses. For the past three or four years the tax and spend side of City government have had their way. But are they getting clipped?

No, way!

Tuesday night the Commission approved the 2002 Budget at $55,247,357, down from $59 million this year, or is it? The City staff changed the budget process and it is next to impossible to compare to last year or the year before. Several Funds, were move into the General Fund so that they did not show as an expenditure and as a transfer.

Back in the early Ď90ís these very same Funds were moved out of the General Fund so taxes could be raised to pay for them. It was impossible to compare Budgets then too.

To hear Snead and Reitz you would think the Budget had been cut. It has not....

Reitz said: "If cuts are going to be made I think they should be visible to the people." The Commissioner wants the staff to stop mowing the grass and fixing the streets. This Budget is not a cut...they need to move on.

Snead refused to vote for putting $5,000 back into the Budget for Crime stoppers. He wanted the $5,000 to show as a tax increase. This Budget is not a cut...they need to move on.

The person to watch in the next year is Commissioner Ed Klimek. For four years he was the only voice of reason but now he has power, which way will he go?

This Budget could have seen some very needed cuts. Commissioners Brad Everett and Mark Taussig were elected to the Commission last spring after running on a "hold the spending" platform. And they were willing to do just that but Klimek stopped them.

For the past three month Klimek has been getting everything he wants by swinging between Snead-Reitz and Everett-Taussig. He is in the perfect position, in-between.

But, there could be a down side to Mr. In-between. If the voters like what Everett and Taussig are trying to do, Klimek could be the odd-man-out next year.

If you think the City needs to increase spending every year, we need to have coffee. And, it you think this Budget is a cut, we need to have coffee and it will take a big cup.

Here is what Bernie Hayen, Director of Finance had to tell the Commissioners about this years Budget:

BACKGROUND

This evening, the City Commission will consider the second readings of Ordinance No. 6226 adopting the 2002 City Budget and Resolution No. 072401-A adopting the 2002-2007 Capital Improvements Program. Both the 2002 City Budget and 2002-2007 CIP have been further reduced as a result of the public hearing held on July 24. For convenience, a "budget-in-brief" has been compiled that explains the basic structure of the proposed City Budget for 2002. This budget overview is attached to this agenda memorandum.

Finally, the City Commission will consider approval of the 2002 Special Alcohol Fund recommended allocations and the 2002 Social Services Advisory Board recommended allocations.

Please note that City Administration received a late request for continued funding of the Crime Stoppers program in the amount of $5,000. This request has been enclosed as a part of this memorandum. Previous discussions with the organization indicated that their funding allocation for 2000 was largely unspent, which was the reason funding elimination for 2002 was recommended. Their letter indicates that municipal court fees were increased in the spring of 2000 specifically for the purpose of funding their organization.

While their request precipitated the fee increase, the Commission did not guarantee ongoing funding of the organization nor is the revenue committed. Instead, funding for Crime Stoppers was established by separate agreement and is subject to annual appropriation by the Commission.

Should the Commission wish to fund the organization, direction should be provided to City Administration.

DISCUSSION

City Budget and CIP

The amendments made by the City Commission as a result of the public hearing for the 2002 City Budget include the following changes (page numbers related to the budget overview are provided where appropriate):

* Approved $5,000 in funding for the MainStreet Program (see page 15).

* Deleted the proposed car rental facility at the airport from the 2002 CIP (estimated at $200,000 in general obligation bonds)

* Deleted the proposed addition to the Park and Recreation administration building from the 2002 CIP (estimated at $311,000 in general obligation bonds)

* Restored $40,000 in sidewalk maintenance to be paid from the Special Street & Highway Fund. This is in addition to the $10,000 in the General Improvement Fund previously allocated for sidewalk maintenance in 2002 (see pages 21-23).

* Reduced $117,900 in vehicle purchases from the list presented to the City Commission in the 2002 CIP. The list included the following changes:

1) Deleted the 4-Wheel Drive, 3/4 ton Pick-up estimated at $32,050 from the Fire Equipment Reserve Fund. The "savings" in sales taxes, which funded this purchase, were transferred to the General Fund further reducing property taxes.

2) Deleted the replacement tractor in City Parks estimated at $22,850 from the General Fund. $2,000 of this amount was applied back to "recondition equipment" for City Parks in the 2002 CIP. The remainder ($20,850) reduced property taxes in the General Fund.

3) Deleted a dump truck from the Street Department estimated at $65,000 from the Special Street & Highway Fund. This "savings" was applied back to road material and asphalt in the 2002 Special Street & Highway Fund.

All of these vehicles that were deleted from the 2002 CIP were moved back to the 2003 CIP.

The net result of these changes provides an additional tax reduction of more than $50,000. Total taxes expected to be levied for the 2002 City Budget currently rests at $9,657,848, a 6% reduction from the published budget. It is now estimated that the 2002 mill levy rate will reduce from 42.717 mills to 42.482 mills