Mid-course correction brings turnaround in Helper budget outlook
A windfall insurance refund and a restructuring of city electric rates have produced a U-turn in the city's budget outlook.
Last month, at the halfway point in the fiscal year, Smuin, Rich and Marsing accountant Doug Rasmussen advised that the city's numbers were heading in the "wrong direction," and the city was facing what could become a $200,000 deficit. More than $60,000 of that, though, was attributed to the state requirement for cities to maintain an undesignated account as a rainy-day fund. That magnified the appearance of the projected deficit, but it is not caused by increased expenses in providing city services.
Since that warning, however, the city got some good news from its health insurance carrier, PHP. The city was entitled to a refund of about $100,000, which will be arriving before the end of June.
The city also expects more than $40,000 to result from new electric rates for Morgantown Machine & Hydraulics, according to Mayor Dean Armstrong. In an interview Thursday, Armstrong said the city invested about $300,000 of its capital budget to install a 1.5 megawatt power line to the facility. It's a dedicated line, meaning that when the power goes out elsewhere in Helper, Morgantown lights will still be on, he said.
Therefore, the company will be in a rate class of its own, paying back gradually on the city's investment.
While the insurance rebate is welcome, it is still only a one-time event, Armstrong noted. "It gives us some breathing room this year, though," he added.
Without a big population or much commercial-industrial tax base, the city relies heavily on its water and electric revenues. The past year, with wetter and cooler conditions, translated into less lawn watering and lighter demand for air conditioning power.