City finance director presents proposed utility funds for

During the July 11 Abilene Commission city meeting, City Finance Director Marcus Rothchild presented to the commissioners the utility funds for the 2023 budget. These funds of their own sources of revenue and have no tax levy. Rothchild explained some items further if he felt an explanation was necessary.

The budget copies given to the commissioners contained red text from Rothchild. The red text is not available on the budget in the agenda of the meeting available to the public.

Starting with receipts, Rothchild explained the special highway fund is funded by the State of Kansas Gas Tax. Rothschild then noted the remaining balance from the 8th Street project fund was moved into the special highway fund so the city could continue to use the funds on future road projects. The other revenue the special highway fund receives is from the Federal Fund Exchange program, which will be $80,000 for 2023.

For expenditures for the special highway fund, Rothchild pointed out the city finished the Street Rehabilitation program this year. For the $325,000 in the capital outlay item, the city staff plans making as many dollars available in that item for when street projects are to be presented to the commission.

Moving onto the Sales Tax Street fund, Rothchild reminded the commission the city has a 0.25 percent sales tax in effect. The tax ends March 2023, so staff will recommend the tax be placed on the ballot in November to be considered. Rothchild said the money generated by the tax has funded “a large number” of projects over the years. Typically, the tax generates $400,000 per year. The estimation for 2023 is $380,000 and is $420,000 for this year. Rothchild said the tax used to generate $325,000 and has now grown to around $400,000 due to economic development growth. If not reinstated, city staff will remove the $380,000 from the budget. A significant contributor to the increase in revenue is the increase in internet sales when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Under the street projects item, $1,900,000 is budgeted. Rothschild said the number is in preparation of projects. The budgeted number is assuming the sales tax will be reinstated. Rothschild said $1 million of the street projects item is from a Kansas Department of Transportation grant. The million plus other funds from the city will be utilized toward the 14th Street project. The project is estimated to cost $2.5 million and possibly more due to rising costs. Rothchild said the city may consider using the $325,000 in the Special Highway fund under the capital outlay item since that money has not been dedicated toward any project yet. Rothchild said the city is focused on completing the 14th Street project and the City Connecting Link Improvement Program project on S. Buckeye Avenue.

Moving to the Recycling fund, Rothchild reminded the commission is funded by the revenue generated by the water utilities. The estimate of the sales of merchandise is “questionable,” Rothchild said. The estimate for 2023 is $20,000. The sales for 2021 and 2022 were strong. Rothchild then pointed out the $100,000 budgeted under the capital outlay item. He said Lon Schrader, Public Works Department director, is working on a project to insulate the recycling building. Rothchild said the project was budgeted for 2022 and the $100,000 will be moved to the 2023 budget if not completed this year. For the $75,000 under the contractual services item, Rothchild said the recycling center has a contract with OCCK, Inc., to help operate the center. The $8,959 under the personnel item is to help pay the salary of the new facility maintenance position the city is planning on hiring next year. Under the operations item, the estimated cost for 2023 is $52,120. The cost in 2021 and 2020 was $20,513 and $24,806. The reason for the increase in 2023 is to pay for maintenance replacement items.

In the Storm Water fund, Rothchild pointed out the $191,989 in the capital outlay item for 2021. Rothchild said that money was used to finish the Northeast Drainage project. For 2023, $500,000 is budgeted under that item. Rothchild said no project is identified to use the $500,000. The item is budgeted that way to be available for projects that may come up in 2023.

Trevor Witt, city vice-mayor, said he would like to see the funds in the Storm Water fund go toward progress on the Southeast Drainage project.

Next, Rothchild addressed the Water fund. He said the revenue does not have a rate increase for 2023, which city staff and the commission can discuss whether to increase in a future meeting. He said without a rate increase, the water fund can meet all its expenditures and have enough reserved to operate 180 days by cash on hand, which is a recommended amount. The estimated budget for the operations item for the wells and production section is almost $100,000 higher than in in 2022. $314,650 is the estimated cost in 2022, and $412,150 is the estimated cost for 2023. A major reason for the increase is because the roof of the Water Treatment Plant needs replacing, which will cost around $75,000. Under the water distributions section, the personnel, operations and capital outlay items have all increased. For the operations item, Rothchild said the city used to spend $125,000 a year to replace water meters. They decided a couple of years ago to finance the meters so that the meters could be replaced all at once. The city is paying $113,000 per year for the meters, which is included in the operations item. The final payment for the meters is in 2025. From now into 2023, the city is working on purchased water meters for the new homes in the Golden Belt Heights. City staff is also planning on performing street repairs such as replacing fire hydrants, valves, water line maintenance. $200,000 is budgeted under the capital outlay item in part for a project for water main line replacement. Lon Schrader is considering using the leftover 2022 funds in that item toward the project. The $64,500 under the principal and interest item in the debt service section is being used to pay off the Water Treatment Plant updates that started in 2019. There are two transfers in the transfers section, a franchise transfer to the general fund and a transfer to the water equipment reserve. With the water equipment reserve transfer funds, Schrader is planning on purchasing programmable logic controllers for $95,000 and a 2009 service truck for $60,000. The city also is transferring funds to help replenish the equipment fund as they have done in the previous few years. Rothchild then addressed the $490,827 under the cash forward item. The money is to ensure the water fund can reach the 180-day operation reserve, which would be around $800,000.

Rothschild then moved on to the Sewer fund. The revenue from fees for 2023 is average compared to 2021 and 2022. Moving to the capital outlay item in the collection section, the item has $260,000 budgeted for 2023. Rothchild said Public Works is planning a “significant” sewer realigning and rehabilitation project. Some of the funds will come from the amount budgeted for that item in 2022, which was $125,000. Only $5,000 of the item is estimated to be spent this year. The rest will go toward that item and project for next year.

Addressing the operations item in the Wastewater Treatment Plant section, the item saw an increase of $15,000 to paint a building. The capital outlay item is budgeted at $50,000 to rebuild pumps and purchase four actuators.

Moving onto the commercial section, Rothchild said the section has increased in general due to insurance and e-bill fees.

In the debt service section, Rothchild pointed out the city is still paying off the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Under the principal and interest item, $552,375 is budgeted for paying the building off. The last payment will be in 2028.

The Sewer fund also has a 5 percent franchise transfer to the general fund. For 2023, the amount will be $81,000. The transfer to the sewer equipment reserve is to start refilling the fund from the purchase of the sewer vac truck the city commission approved the purchase of during the June 27 city meeting.

The cash balance item will then be budgeted to be $361,944. The amount will leave the Sewer fund to be short of the recommended 180-day operation reserve. The lower amount does not call for alarm, but needs to be watched, Rothchild said.

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