Weatherford Democrat

August 3, 2011

City tackles budget

Expenses up, revenues down; tax rate to remain unchanged

Crystal Brown
Weatherford Democrat

WEATHERFORD — Pay raises are still on hold along with 13.5 positions in the City of Weatherford, but the 2011-12 proposed budget does show a $2.7 million increase in expenses.

But along with this increase in cost to run the city comes a flat, if not negative, change to revenue.

While 38 percent of the general fund revenues come from sales tax, that figure is up ever so slightly. The decrease in revenue is due to appraised home values, which directly relates to how much tax money the city gathers. Property tax generates 22 percent of the city’s budget.

At .4636 cents, the city has no plans to budge the current tax rate from the position it has held the past three years; however, assessed property values dropped from 1.8 billion to 1.79 billion.

In all, the city is looking at $22.65 million in revenues this year compared with $23.86 million in the current budget.

Expenditures for the current year sit at $23.28 million while the proposed 2011-12 budget increases spending to $25.99 million. This leaves an ending fund balance of $7.57 million or 124 days of operation.

During pre-budget discussions, the council advised City Manager Jerry Blaisdell they wanted to stick with 130 days of fund balance plus $500,000 as they did in last year’s budget process.

During a special council meeting to discuss the budget Tuesday night, Blaisdell said a change in transfer funds from the utility budget is the cause of the ending fund balance landing below par. In years past, the city has received funds from the utility department, but this year, in a flip-flop, the city will send approximately $1 million to the utility side.

“The [utility department] will not be able to get back to 60 reserve days without assistance or be able to purchase equipment for projects,” Janina Jewell, the city’s chief financial officer, said. “This amount is not set in stone. We are still evaluating projections. I know it’s really unusual for us to do that.”

Blaisdell said the rest of the budget was put together before coming to the realization the transfer would go the opposite direction this upcoming fiscal year. But he kept in mind an option for the council to consider to raise the ending fund balance back to the 130-day mark.

He suggested the council consider removing the Briarwood drainage engineering and permits project from the council’s decision packages list. That would save the city $600,000. And if the council is adamant to keep the full 130 days plus $500,000, he said they would have to cut the entire decision package list, which includes a drainage improvement program, lighting at Soldier Springs Park and full-time and part-time custodial positions among a few others.

“I never intended to go beyond the request of the council.” Blaisdell said.

The council was asked to delve into the detailed budget and come back with suggested changes at its next meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 9. The council will also discuss the budget on Aug. 23, Sept. 13, and hold a public hearing, and on Sept. 26, when they are expected to adopt the new budget which goes into effect Oct. 1.