More city budget changes

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Finance Committee of the Blytheville City Council met Thursday to discuss the city's current financial position and to make a few budgetary changes.

The meeting began with Committee Chairman Stan Parks informing the committee that the city's sales tax revenue for the month of April was down $10,957 and up $33,310 for the year.

He also said that the city's portion of the county sales and use tax was down $10,809 for the month and down $40,988 for the year thus far.

Chief Financial Officer John Callens told the committee that the city's expenditures through April 30 was up $185,000 from last year but that it is easily explainable since Public Works purchased $185,000 in new equipment such as the new burn box and roll-off trucks.

"If you look at sanitation, we have spent $185,000 on new equipment. So if you back them out, we are exactly where we were with operational expenses last year," Callens said. "In fact, Mark Key [Public Works Director] said that our yard is full of timber, including on Elm Street...if it weren’t for the burn box, all of that would have to be hauled down to the landfill."

Callens also handed out a department-by-department budget analysis and said that each department should be at approximately 33.3 percent of their annual budget. The only departments above that threshold were: Animal control at 37.97 percent, general administration at 41.90 percent, sanitation at 40.41 percent, the golf course at 38.29 percent and the Ritz at 41.79 percent.

Callens said that animal control had a lot of expenses at the first of the year [at the animal shelter] that drove them up, but that it is coming back down. He said that general administration always begins high and works its way down because it has a lot of first of the year expenses that are for the entire year. He also added that the Ritz is a little high because they get a flat rate, but they also had some HVAC repair this year.

Next the committee made a few changes to the city's budget. The first was an increase of $55,000 to "lease payments" in order to pay for the Iowa lawsuit settlement over equipment leases. That will be paid for out of "excess revenues from this year," according to Callens.

Callens also presented to the committee an estimate of $360,197 for repair to the Regal Beloit building (formerly Magnetek). The city will only be responsible for a $10,000 deductible and insurance will pay for the remainder. Therefore the committee agreed to increase "insurance revenue" by $350,197 and to increase building repair expenses by the same amount. The $10,000 deductible will come out of the general fund.

The committee also approved $23,500 for a Triumph LS ($13,000), a Delta 3N (9,000) and additional installation fees of $1,500 as part of the Blytheville GPS Survey recommendations of CWB Engineers.

The entire expense will come out of the water bonds already approved for that purpose. Farmers and Merchants Bank of Stuttgart is the trustee, therefore the city will submit an invoice and a work order that contains the signature of at least two signatories (Mayor James Sanders, Finance Chairman Stan Parks or City Clerk Connie Mosley) to the bank in Stuttgart and once they agree that it is covered within the scope of the bonds' purpose, the bank will pay the bill.

Callens said that the new equipment will solve the problem that will be created "when all the old timers leave." It has been said numerous times in the past committee meetings that not all of the city's meters, valve and pipe locations are correctly plotted on the current maps. Callens said that once everything has been GPS plotted, the city will have a permanent record of where everything is.

Callens and the council members present all said that they have been receiving calls from constituents asking about the public safety tax revenues. Callens informed the committee, on the record, that the ballot issue explained that the 10-year Public Safety Tax will not begin until October 1, 2017 and will continue through September 30, 2017, therefore the city will not see the first revenue from the tax until around December 1.

Councilwoman Barbara Brothers said, "They don't trust us and I get that."

Other council members agreed that there is a lack of trust by the community, but Councilman L.C. Hartsfield said that once they begin to fix some of the problems, people would.

Parks said, "We've been under budget for the past two years and that alone shows that something [good] is going on here."

Assistant Chief Ricky Jefferson reminded the committee that the Animal Control Department is seeking permission to change their one part-time position into one that is full time.

"Don't you think it would be better to get 40 officers than to get another animal control officer," Parks asked Jefferson.

"Well, we can do that, if you want one overworked animal control officer," Jefferson answered.

Hartsfield suggested and the committee agreed that Jefferson and Callens should "put pen to paper" and bring back the numbers on that to the committee next month before a decision is made.

"We won't see any money from the tax until December at the earliest. And even if we added ten more slots for the police department, I don't think he [Blytheville Police Chief Ross Thompson] could fill them. He is having trouble finding enough candidates to fill then that are qualified as it is...I know we have problems with animals, officers, sewer...We can't put a dent in the police officers this year. Maybe in animal control we can...I just think that we need to see some numbers brought to the table. I think that's the proper way to look at it," Hartsfield said.

thenry@blythevillecourier.com