Carson City leaders put final touches on a $135.6 million total budget Thursday, half of which is general fund money, but $300,000 in “maybe” money possibly for potholes stole the show.
The Board of Supervisors decided on directions to staff on tweaks to the Fiscal Year 2015-16 spending guide that departments and City Hall had crafted in recent weeks, setting the stage for final formal adoption at a special meeting Monday, May 18. Maybe money is what might materialize in the final four months of the current fiscal year if conservative March-June projections get exceeded by $300,000, as is possible.
“We’re having a really good year in consolidated taxes,” said Finance Director Nick Providenti, but added even though February and previous months of city sales tax exceeded outlook by 10 percent he kept projections for the final third of this fiscal year more conservative. Supervisor Lori Bagwell estimated that may mean an additional $300,000 could come if the 10 percent take continued and proposed earmarking it for street maintenance next fiscal year.
Supervisors Brad Bonkowski and Karen Abowd sided with Bagwell, outvoting Mayor Robert Crowell and Supervisor Jim Shirk in making that commitment to use such money to fix city streets by filling more potholes, sealing cracks and the like. Bonkowski, chairman of the Regional Transportation Commission, favored the idea because past shortage of maintenance money means “we get to the point where the roads deteriorate exponentially.”
Bonkowski likened that to an unfunded liability time bomb, while Bagwell said though using general fund money on streets is unique residents have made it clear, “strenuously, that roads need to be a priority.”
Crowell played devil’s advocate, asking how he could justify using general fund money for capital maintenance needs like roads when various city departments also have capital outlays that are overdue and have been unable to make it onto the FY 2015-16 favored list. Shirk challenged the concept as well, saying he wanted to hear from other department heads on how they might use the money.
Fire Chief Bob Schreihans, Sheriff Ken Furlong and Parks and Recreation Department Director Roger Moellendorf testified briefly, but kept their remarks to the general backlog of deferred maintenance needs rather than getting specific about individual projects they see as important.
“Across the city, the infrastructure is failing,” said Furlong, who could get patrol cars if the capital improvement outlay favored list were lengthened. Schreihans said if the roads decision were delayed until the money was in hand and it was still up for grabs, he would be back to make a pitch for part of it. During this part of the debate the mayor quipped: “Isn’t it fun to have some money?”
Public Works Director Darren Schulz didn’t make a pitch for the $300,000 or more in maybe money, but he did respond to a question from Abowd about its use.
“We could fix more potholes; we could seal more cracks,” he said, adding the eight-year cycle of section-by-section maintenance work could be enhanced. He said the street maintenance budget now is about $500,000 annually.
After the vote, Shirk said it would be insufficient, arguing more money for streets needs to be found elsewhere. “It does nothing,” he said, amending that immediately to: “It improves it a little bit.”
Much of the other fiscal focus was on Providenti’s presentation regarding the anticipated general fund revenues and expenditures beginning July 1, which amount to $67.7 million from city sales, property and other taxes or fees residents pay. The proposal includes $64.4 million for salaries, programs and the like, while $3.3 million or a bit more than 5 percent in reserve. State law requires at least 4 percent in reserve, or what is formally called ending fund balance.
Providenti said about 75 percent of the budget is in salaries and benefits. His figures show next fiscal year’s general fund-related full time equivalent (FTE) city staff of 425, down from a 509 peak in FY 2006-07.
The FY 2015-16 revenue split shown in a pie chart dividing up the general fund’s nearly $68 million showed: 36.3 percent will be from consolidated taxes, which includes the city sales tax take; 32.8 percent from property taxes; 17.7 percent from charges for services; 10.3 percent from licenses and permits, with 2.9 percent listed as miscellaneous.
After a full day on the budget and other items, Bagwell and others urged an agenda item at a subsequent meeting about how future spending guides might be handled with more detail and efficiency.