Facing relatively flat revenues and rising expenses, City Councilors passed a preliminary budget for the fiscal year 2014 Monday.
“A higher percentage of the city’s budgeted expenditures are actually being spent, which leaves less carryover into the following fiscal year,” according to City Manager Larry Fry. “Health insurance costs continue to rise significantly, as well as changing the parameters of part-time and temporary employees for benefit purposes.”
All funds showed a reduced level of reserve funds, as allocating the resources was deemed best used as available resources, according to Fry.
“The only fund which requires a minimum level of reserves is the general fund, which requires at least one-twelfth of the city’s annual expenditures.”
The general fund balance will remain at just more than $5.5 million.
The city will maintain some 13 percent in reserves and attempt to increase the reserves mid-year, Fry told councilors.
The estimated budget amount for 2014 is $4.572 million. The estimate of property taxes for the general fund and general obligation bonds debt service budget are given to the city by the State Department of Finance and Administration.
The city plans to make personnel changes in the police department by upgrading an information tech and adding four public safety aids.
Changes in operating expenditures include: a reduction in economic development funding from $175,000 to $150,000; an increase in human resources professional services by $80,000 to perform a comprehensive Compensation and Job Classification Study; additional funding of nearly $229,000 for solid waste collections for dumpsters; and additional $30,000 for online bill paying and collection services for water billing.
Some major ticket items the city included next fiscal year will be to replace radio consoles for $150,000; replace truck for Animal Control and Community Enhancement for $25,000 and $18,140; and buy an emergency warning siren for some $24,500.
The Wool Softball Field completion was approved and expected to cost $96,000. Playground equipment for Carpenter Park, Melendez Park and Yucca Park will cost a total of $132,000.
A grant match to pay for a video security system at the zoo will be paid for with $12,500.
The golf course fairway mower will get funded with $60,000, and a mower for the Convention Center will get $5,000.
Buses and transit will receive $200,000.
A North Union Pavement Rehabilitation project will receive nearly $1.3 million and the Esplanade Project will get $55,000.
Several projects at the Roswell Air Center received large portions of funds. A Taxiway Pavement Project netted $400,000; a reroof project at hanger 66 will get $160,00; the design of runway 3/21 will get $1.8 million; and an asbestos abatement at various buildings will be funded to the tune of $150,000. Some funding for the projects will be received from the Federal Aviation Administration.
One project that was disputed was the funding for a pilot program of an automated meter reading system, paid for by the recent increase in water bills. The cost was $400,000.
The meter-reading system would have eliminated some staff and tracked water leaking issues, Fry said.
Councilor Jimmy Craig asked for the item to be removed from the budget, saying he felt the city should be more conservative with funds received by the water rate increase.
“I think this is a good idea,” Craig said. “I just want to make sure since we bit the bullet and raised the rate, all of a sudden the public doesn’t come in with pitch forks.”
Another item in dispute was the city’s suggestion to pay $25,000 to plant trees for a cemetery expansion. Craig and Councilwoman Elena Velasquez asked for the item to be pulled, but later amended the request.
Velasquez said money could be spent more wisely.
“With the cemetery plot costs way up, we need to spend money more wisely on things that are more needed,” Velasquez said.
Craig was concerned that the issue hadn’t gone through proper committee approval before it reached City Council.
The funds were passed, but on the contingency that the committee approve them before they can be spent.