Hays city commissioners were presented with their first look at the 2015 budget during Thursday night’s work session. According to City Manager Toby Dougherty, the 2015 budget is very “routine” and “comparable” to the 2014 budget.
The city is budgeting a total amount of $36 million for the 2015 fiscal year. General fund expenditures have risen $52,000 and revenues are expected to be down by $31,600.
Total expenditures increased $77,600 from last year, but Dougherty says the increase is “misleading” due to transfers of funds and reserves, expenditures and current budgeting laws in Kansas.
“Key aspects of the budget include that it continues to be a balanced budget and we continue to put money into reserves as we do every year.” Dougherty said. “We not only provide a balanced budget but we’re financing reserves. The commission then uses that money to pay cash for capital projects.”
The budget continues to remain at 25 mills at the wish of the commission and there are no new employees. The largest expenditure is the recent two percent pay bonus for city employees.
“Due to our sales tax projections, we’re a little bit wary of giving a pay increase that would compound so we recommended a bonus that would go away at the end of the year,” Dougherty explained. “We can reevaluate next year if we do have an uptick in revenues.”
So far this year, sales tax collections are on a downward trend with only one positive month to date.
New in 2015 would be the creation of a Commission Capital Reserve Fund.
According to Dougherty, every year the city brings in a little bit more money than needed to operate the city as monies from the sales tax are placed into the general fund levy. This extra money is used to pay down debt and to pay for capital projects and it simply carries over until the commission decides to spend it on capital project such as the 41st Street and airport renovations.
“I’ve always been a little bit leery of the process.” Dougherty said. “If the commission did not have a big project to spend the money on, the money is carried forward and it shows as an expenditure. That makes the budget look inflated, when extra money isn’t actually being spent.”
The creation of the new fund would allow the city to simply put the unused extra money into the fund. Every three months, an updated figure would be given to city commissioners. They would then decide what amount of money could be placed into a project or they could save the money for a bigger project.
“This way if the commission has a big project, they know how much they have to save in order to pay for that project,” added Dougherty.
The budget also features the same solid waste rate. A couple of years ago after changing to an automated system, the city projected that trash rates would need to be raised in 2012. Since the city has kept expenses down over those years, no such increase is needed. Dougherty also mentioned that staff will reevaluate the increase next year.
“I can’t promise that there won’t be a (solid waste fee) increase in the future, but I can say that there won’t be one for next year.” Dougherty said.
Hays city commissioners plan to work on the 2015 budget at their retreat this weekend in Salina and throughout the next month. At the August 7 work session commissioners will discuss funding of outside agencies.
A public hearing is set for August 14.