Tuesday, March 13, 2012
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Building the city budget 2012-13

Part 1: City sees something close to 'break-even' for new budget year

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[March 13, 2012]  Saturday morning aldermen gathered in council chambers at Lincoln City Hall for the first of hopefully only two budget workshop meetings. The goal was to review what the city has in store for the next year in revenues and look at what the projected expenditures may be for the coming year.

HardwareEight aldermen were present for the beginning of the meeting. Alderwoman Stacy Bacon arrived partway through the morning, and Alderman Buzz Busby was absent.

One of the changes aldermen saw this year in how information was presented was a change in the department spreadsheets.

The documents were modified to be simpler to read and understand. The change came through the work of Susan Gehlbach, city clerk; Melody Anderson, who chairs the council's finance committee; and Chuck Conzo, city treasurer.

During the course of the morning, aldermen heard from each of the city department heads on what their budget request for the coming year would include. Presentations were given based on holding the line at last year's amount, and there was also a second option that included a 2 percent increase over last year.

In the departments, some of the changes that came up included additional manpower for the building and safety office. During his presentation, building and safety officer John Lebegue explained he would be losing Kathy Vinyard, as her part-time hours would be shifted to cover more of the clerical duties of the mayor's office as well as helping in the office of the new city administrator.

He explained that the hours she had been devoting to his office were crucial to him being able to spend time out of the office, in the community. He asked the board to consider allowing him to hire a replacement.

In Mayor Keith Snyder's requests for the coming year, he asked for a slight increase in part-time salaries but otherwise held the line on his budget, with the exception of dollars for schools and conferences.

Snyder explained that this year he is a member of the board of directors for the Illinois Municipal League. He said IML does not cover the cost of travel and overnight stay for the board meetings; thus, he had added $1,000 to the line.

Snyder also noted that to date no city administrator has been hired. He said there was no chance one would be hired before the end of the current fiscal year. He also indicated the decision would not be made very soon after the beginning of the new fiscal year, May 1. Therefore, he said the budget he had put together for that office for the new fiscal year was designed to cover only three-quarters of a year.

Once again this year, Snyder brought up conducting a citywide cleanup day. However, the biggest part of this news was that there is a plan for something to happen in the near future. He said he would go into that in greater detail at this week's workshop meeting of the council.

Other increases to department budgets included significant increases for fuel in the city fire, police and street departments. Since the first of the year, gas prices have gone up significantly, and all the departments have felt the squeeze of trying to finish the year within what was budgeted. Next year's budgets for the three departments include expectations that gas prices will continue to rise.

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The city also heard from community partners at the Saturday meeting.

Mike Maniscalco presented his requests for the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership. Seth Goodman and Wanda Lee Rohlfs were there representing Main Street Lincoln, and John Sutton put in a request from the Logan Railsplitting Association.

Jennifer Lovett of the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce presented a request for the city to continue sponsorship of the special-shape balloon for the Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival, and Will D'Andrea submitted a request for support of the Logan County Regional Planning Commission.

At the end of the day, Anderson offered a brief summary of what the new budget year is going to look like.

Right now, wages are not solid figures in the budget, as collective bargaining negotiations are still going on. Anderson said she had an anticipated increase figure for those, as well as insurance costs. She also said it was hoped the insurance figures would be more concrete by the next meeting, at the end of the month.

At the end of the first meeting, the total projected revenues for the new fiscal year came to $11,268,672, with total expenses for the year adding up to $12,438,651, a difference of $1,169,979 in the red.

Anderson explained that infrastructure expenses of $515,000 are designated to be paid by non-home rule tax revenues. Subtracting that from the $1.17 million brings the deficit down to $654,979.

Next, looking at the liability for the fire and police pension lines, she said each contains a portion that is designated as unfunded. The total of the unfunded portions of the two pension plans comes to $639,574. This brings the net deficit down to $15,405.

Conzo also noted that while it isn't something that is considered in the budget process, there is money in the bank. What this represents is funds from past years when revenues actually exceeded city expenditures. At one time there was a large sum, in excess of $7 million, but that figure today is far less.

When the council comes back to the next budget meeting, on March 31, it is expected that there will still be some budget cuts involved in balancing the new fiscal year, but the bottom line is it is going to be a less stressful task this year.


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