An annual balancing act looms in passing a municipal budget that meets the costs of City of Atchison needs while avoiding tax increases.
Becky Berger, city manager, is set to present a budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2020 on July 15 to the five elected city commission members, at which point the city commission will have four business days set aside to offer amendment proposals.
Otherwise, final adoption is scheduled for August. The city tentatively forecasts the availability of a little under $30.7 million in revenue and other resources, against a little more than $24.4 million in expenditures, leaving just under $6.25 million in the cash balance.
During a budget workshop discussion that lasted about two and a half hours on Monday at City Hall, Mike Stec, utilities manager, told Mayor Shawn Rizza, Vice Mayor Allen Reavis and commissioners Dave Butler, David Hausmann and Charlie Perdue that his department is reflective of how local government needs are becoming more complex.
Much of the city’s water infrastructure is decades old and requires more expertise and man hours to maintain than in years past, he said, but staff availability is not as high as it used to be. Stec joked with commissioners that despite their earnest desire for him to take vacation every once in a while, he is continually wary of new projects arising the moment he gets away.
“Some stuff has to be done today,” Stec said. “Too much of what the utilities department does is absolutely time critical.”
The city is looking at a roughly even-keel financial picture for FY 2020, with a slight dip in the mill levy to 59.590 at the same time that property valuations have increased.
City leaders reached agreement that only modest adjustments would be necessary this year to each budget line item, with the situation reflective of the city’s strong financial health and its ability to avoid significant budget cuts and deficit spending.
An example of relative uncertainty exists in the city’s commitment to contribute to countywide solid waste processing needs via revenues generated through a 1 percent sales tax enacted via referendum in 1993. At present, explained Joe Warren, the city’s director of administrative services, residences “pay” a solid waste fee of zero dollars and zero cents; the sales tax covers the city’s contributions to countywide solid waste expenses.
However, the city is anticipating the possibility that it will be required to make higher payments into the countywide solid waste fund, and will need to account for just over $500,000 in new expenses to that end.
This money would have to be cut out of the budget, or a fee of up to $9.60 per residence, per month, would have to be assessed, based on the total number of “residences” amounting to between 3,300 and 3,500 within the city’s incorporated limits. The implementation of the fee remains a hypothetical and the timeline for a permanent resolution of disagreements on city-county joint financial concerns such as this is, as ever, undefined.
During the official meeting that took place before the budget workshop, Pastor Marshall Turner of the Community of Christ Church delivered an invocation before normal business, which constituted solely of an approval of the minutes from the last city meeting and an approval of alcohol sales during the 24th Amelia Earhart Festival, set for Friday, July 19, and Saturday, July 20.
Both votes carried unanimously.