Aug 14, 2020 7:08 PM

Alliance council approves 2020-2021 budget on first reading with no tax increase

Posted Aug 14, 2020 7:08 PM

By Kalin Krohe, Panhandle Post

At the Aug. 4 Alliance City Council meeting, council discussed on first reading the 2020-2021 proposed budget. 

The proposed budget...set at $54.5 million, up $8 million from last year...contains anticipated and estimated revenues and expenses for the next fiscal year. 

"This year's budget includes enterprise fee transfers to the general fund in the 12% rate," said Mike Dafney, Alliance City Mayor. "This source will provide approximately $2.1 million for the general fund operations."

This budget provides City of Alliance employees with a 2% cost of living increase. The overall cost of total employee salaries and benefits is up by $170,000 to $7.9 million-- a 2.6% increase from last year.

The budget also includes capital projects of $18.9 million and enterprise capital projects of $6.1 million.  

One of the bigger projects the city is hoping will happen this year is the third street overlay. Additional projects on the radar include Pillars for the Park, an airport project, the public safety radio system upgrade, a lift station replacement, and upgrades to the Central Park tennis courts. 

To hear a more in depth list of projects on the budget and costs, click this link below to hear KCOW morning show host Jason Wentworth speak with City of Alliance Finance Director Randy Waggner.

"Concerning local taxes...the city's property tax request is unchanged for 2021," said Mike Dafney, Alliance Mayor. "This is the same as 2017, 2018, 2019, I want that out there. We get hammered about what we are doing with property tax every time we try to do something. We have not made a tax increase for a total of three years and we're leaving it the same."

Randy Waggener said the city is projecting healthy sales tax despite the pandemic. 

"We're expecting to exceed what we have budgeted for this year for sales tax," Waggener added. "I think a lot of people are doing more online shopping and that sales tax comes back to us. It's really looking to be kind of level in many other ways it's just exciting that we tend to be pretty stable."

Council also approved an additional 1% for budgeted restricted funds on the first reading.

This was passed with a 75% affirmative vote by council to exceed the allowable growth and basic allowable growth for the 2020 - 2021 fiscal year budget by 1%. This does not increase the budget. It allows the city to increase the unused budget authority for use in future years. 

The council also heard from Waggener on the third quarter financial statement. 

"We're all concerned about how COVID might affect the city...and are the revenues still going to come in," Waggener said. "From all our projections it seems like we're going to be doing well this year. Our basic ambulance fees, annual building permits...they're on target to exceed the most recent few years. We've seen a little drop in motor vehicle sales tax, but we anticipate that that's a timing thing more than anything. There was a period of time when people couldn't get their cars licensed and we thing that's going to catch up. We have a reserve there and so we're not anticipating that's going to affect our finances at all."

Waggener said the Skyview Golf Course was highly used this season. 

"The memberships hasn't been as high as they have been since 2008," Waggener added. "We have a new golf pro out there and he's getting kids excited about golfing."

He also said the general fund cash trends are at the highest level they've been. 

"We anticipate there's going to be a little bit to help fund some of those capital projects we got planned for next year," Waggener continued.   

In other business, council:

-Approved a bid award for the Bulk Water Fill Station Rehabilitation Project to K. L. Wood and Company for $38,039. 

-Denied a rezone request with the Starlite Addition. The Alliance Planning Commission at their regular meeting on July 14 recommened this denial.