The North Platte City Council was introduced Monday to a preliminary $26.6 million budget for the next fiscal year, up just a little (1.2 percent) from the $26.3 million budget this year. City Administrator Jim Hawks said city revenue is expected to total $27.056 million when the fiscal year ends in September. That should leave a $790,000 carryover for next year, most of which will be put into the city’s cash reserves.
Hawks said the carryover would raise the reserve fund from $200,000 to $752,241.
Hawks called it a “very workable budget with a lot of things that are ongoing.”
“Most importantly, we try to get the most out of every dollar and work on growing the contingency fund,” he said.
Hawks said auditors have repeatedly advised the city to build cash reserves, and he hopes to keep the contingency fund around $750,000 every year.
Hawks said city sales tax revenue is projected to rise by $200,000 next year, from $7.4 million to $7.6 million. Revenue from the state should increase too, from an increase in Highway Trust Fund money.
Hawks said property tax revenue is expected to rise about 4 percent, to $3.6 million, up from $3.45 million.
Revenues are increasing at the city rec center, helping to cover costs and allowing the city’s contribution to the recreation center to decrease by $8,000 in the coming year.
The Iron Eagle Golf Course is not in any better financial condition, according to the budget.
Operating expenses are projected to increase by 11.04 percent, to $522,088. But, the clubhouse operates on its own, separate budget and expenses there are down by 23.5 percent, to $221,650. Some clubhouse savings come from fewer employees.
The costs of maintaining the grass and greens at Iron Eagle are considerable, and Councilman Tim Barrett asked if the golf course managers use the purchasing power of the city for such supplies as fertilizer and equipment.
It was generally agreed that joint purchasing of supplies should be explored, but taking care of a golf course is different that parks, because different kinds of supplies are needed.
The preliminary budget also includes a 1.8 percent cost-of-living raise for city employees, as well as step performance raises for those who merit it.
“It’s incumbent on us to try to achieve that, to keep those current and try to keep those (raises) where they need to be,” Hawks said.
Councilman Brook Baker asked if it really makes sense to raise salaries and then raise property taxes to pay them.
Baker said, “Here, we’ll raise your pay, but raise your taxes and take it right back.”
Barrett expressed disagreement with the step raises, as he did a year ago.
“I tried to talk about this several times last year but no one would listen to me,” Barrett said. “If we can keep expenditures under the projected 2013 budget now, why can’t we make it (lower taxes) now?”
Barrett cited fiscal troubles in other government agencies, and said there are “a lot of places that are not giving their employees raises, including the federal government.”
Barrett added that this is not because he does not feel employees deserve raises.
Public safety and public service (police, fire, streets, sanitation, parks and city shops) get the biggest parts of the annual budget -- standing at 74% of the new budget.
The council plans another budget work session at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and if necessary, a third budget session is set at 6 p.m. Thursday.
A public hearing on the budget is tentatively set Sept. 3 in the city council chambers, starting at 7:30 p.m.
The budget is slated to be finalized and adopted two days later -- at a special council meeting on Sept. 5.