Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Celina projects hefty budget surplus

By William Kincaid
CELINA - Sitting atop a projected copious carryover for next year, city council members on Monday night passed first reading of legislation to move more than $2 million into multiple savings accounts.
They also passed final reading of the 2017 budget.
The city, as of the end of November, is poised to begin 2017 with a general fund surplus of $4.35 million, according to city auditor Betty Strawn. That's in addition to the $1.34 million generated by the 0.5 percent income tax revenue for police, fire and streets.
Officials want to retain at least a $2 million carryover to maintain the city's credit rating and for emergencies. The rest they intend to feed into police, fire, streets, park and economic development accounts.
The first piece of legislation, which was unanimously passed to second reading for the next regular council meeting, would create a park capital fund and seed it with $100,000 from the general fund. The account is permitted by ordinance to accumulate up to $2 million over 10 years.
It would allow the city to save for future purchases of shelter houses, playground equipment, recreation and sporting devices and facilities, restrooms and other items. It also would make the city less dependent on the Bryson Trust Fund, a private outside account that has helped finance numerous recreation projects over the years, mayor Jeff Hazel said.
"We've not had really that funds (in the past) to be able to establish a parks capital fund, but I think we've all discussed the fact that perhaps we've relied on Bryson for everything, and I don't think we can do that," Hazel said.
Multiple requests to Bryson Fund Trust officers have been turned down over the years, Hazel said. Also, the officers have committed to pay 90 percent of the city's $2.94 million purchase of 8 acres of lakeside property. Therefore, they might not have additional money for other requests, he added.
"There's oftentimes capital items - it could be playground equipment - and we have no way to fund that," Hazel said.
In ensuing years, councilors would continue to transfer money into the fund based on future general fund carryovers.
Councilmen Mark Fleck, Mike Sovinski and Fred LeJeune all agreed creating a parks fund is a good idea for the city's future.
"Our parks are very, very critical to our city's success," LeJeune said. "This shows we're making a very calculated investment in our children's future, and I think it's long overdue and it's nice to be in a stable position where we can establish this, get this started for capital improvement projects to move forward."
Councilors also heard first reading of an ordinance to move $2 million from the general fund into other accounts - $100,000 to the police capital fund, $100,000 to the fire capital fund, $300,000 to the economic development fund and $1.5 million to the streets improvement capital fund.
An economic development fund to invest in land options and purchases related to site development was created in 2013 with an initial appropriation of $250,000. That money ultimately went toward the city's 10 percent contribution of the acquisition of lakefront property to be developed into the Bryson Park District, according to Hazel.
"We don't have anything to react if we need to help a business coming to town or if there's things that we need to do infrastructure-wise," Hazel said.
The money could, among other potential opportunities, be used to acquire additional property for the city's industrial park, Hazel said.
"I think that we can be better prepared knowing we have something to go to," he said.
Sovinski said he supports the transfer.
"We are not in very good shape in terms of being able to (help) any new industries with any good locations like a lot of our surrounding communities," he said. "If we do not have some sort of nest egg or fund that we can draw on to at least get something started, we're starting two or three steps behind everybody else."
Hazel also said officials can transfer $1.5 million to the streets account, knowing that projects are set for next year, including the $500,000 Livingston Street water line replacement between Main and Enterprise streets, a $120,000 Fountain Avenue water line replacement from Wayne Street to Livingston Street and a $315,000 West Wayne Street water line replacement between Main and Deford streets.
The transfer also will allow the city to take care of its sidewalk issues.
"We need to make sure our house is cleaned up and in order before we ask property owners to step up to the plate," Hazel said. "If we're the ones doing the handicap ramps or ... there's a manhole structure or there's a water meter pit that's caused a break in the sidewalks, that's not up to the property owners, that's the city's."
Councilors also passed final reading of the 2017 budget that sets aside a total of $47.27 million for all accounts, including $6.9 million for the general fund, which pays for the city's day-to-day operations.
In 2016, the city appropriated $46.15 million for all accounts. The 2015 budget was $43.5 million.
Hazel had attributed the spike to incoming state capital dollars to fund numerous projects in 2017.
In other news, Hazel reported that 250 tons of salt have been used on city streets over the last week due to the ice.
"Our guys did a tremendous job of getting on top of it," Hazel reported.
Hazel stressed the importance of residents moving their vehicles off of the streets during wintry weather so plows can make their way through. If not moved, cars may be plowed in and subjected to damage from other vehicles sliding across slippery roadways.
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