“This is by far the best we’ve done,” Mayor Bill Hereford said of the process in developing the 2013 fiscal year budgets for the city.
City Manager Patrick Draper said the fiscal year 2013 general fund and utility budgets are both balanced.
“We’ve elected not to bring newly hired people in until mid-year,” Draper said. “And the budget includes a 3-percent raise for employees.”
Draper said he expects to fill two police officer vacancies, a certified mechanic position at the city shop, and a part-time administrative clerk position for the city shop about mid-year.
He said if the new council allows him to remain as the city manager, the council is expected to hire a new fire chief by mid year.
Draper said he would not recommend hiring an in-house city engineer and that position is not budgeted for in the upcoming fiscal year budget.
City employees saw a cost-of-living raise in the 2012 fiscal year, but hadn’t seen a cost-of-living raise since 2008, when employees received a 4 percent raise.
Draper said city employees deserve a small cost-of-living raise.
“I know these are hard economic times,” Draper said. “Our city finds itself in a fortunate position to be able to afford a modest cost-of-living raise for employees.”
City officials estimated general fund revenues conservatively at $18 million for next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2013.
“We are low-balling,” Draper said.
The city estimated revenues last fiscal year at $18 million, but revenues actually topped $19 million.
“We’re optimistic we will do as well as we did last year,” Draper said. “That will create a surplus.”
He said city officials were forced to transfer $1 million from the general fund to the utility fund, so the utility fund budget is balanced at $5.6 million.
Draper pointed out that about half of the utility department expenses, about $2.6 million, are allocated for the long-term sewer upgrade debt.
He said the sewer debt would not be paid off until 2039.
“That is a very long-term debt,” Draper said. “On the positive side, we have got a heck of a good sewer system now.”
The city was mandated by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to complete a major, multimillion-dollar sewer system overhaul to prevent sewer overflows or face stiff penalties.
Draper said next fiscal year plans include paying off about a half-million dollars in short-term debt. He said the city would also spend about $1.5 million on various new capital projects.
Draper said he anticipates starting the new fiscal year with $2.8 million in reserve.
Contact David Atchison at email@example.com