Helper city faces revenue shortfall
A shortfall in revenues and the city's physical infrastructure problems could create a dilemma in Helper in the next year.
Officials discussed the situation at a regular meeting of the Helper City Council last Thursday evening.
"I wish I could tell you that everything in our budget was rosy," Mayor Joe Bonacci told the council and local residents gathered at the Helper Civic Auditorium for the council meeting last week. "There just seems to be a lot of issues that aren't resolvable right now."
Bonacci, in his job as mayor, must present a tentative budget for the coming year to the council each spring for study.
A final "balanced" budget must be in place by July 1 of each year for public entities, including city corporations such as Helper.
According to the figures that Bonacci presented, revenues for the coming year will be quite a bit lower than initially expected, based on past projections and what has realistically transpired during the past budget year.
While a number of areas in city government revenues have remained steady, none have grown and in fact, a few have actually decreased considerably in the past year.
One of the areas that has decreased the most is general sales tax revenue, which is down $31,000 from last year.
Altogether the city leaders face over a $100,000 decrease in revenues, while costs for many things are increasing.
For instance, the cost of insurance and retirement for city employees is going up seven percent this year explained council members.
"The city's income is down and there is a lot of misinformation in the community as to what is owed and our situation," stated the mayor. "For instance, most people think the Rio Theater was built entirely with grants, but that isn't true. There is a portion of the cost that was acquired as a no interest loan. Each July 1 Helper has a balloon payment of $9000 that must go to the loan provider on that building."
The council discussed the situation once the mayor was done showing them all the preliminary figures.
"I think we all need to look at our individual departments and be sure we are running as efficiently as possible to see if we can make up some of this," advised councilman Robert Welch.
But as the discussion went on the bottom line was that if things don't improve, the city will need to either look for new income streams or some cuts will have to be made to balance the budget.
"We are up against it," stated the mayor. "The state has a law that we must run in the black and that figures to living within our means. The city has zero bonding capability right now. Our budget is labor intensive so obviously something will have to be done in that area to save money unless revenues improve."
During the discussion, some problems with physical infrastructure within the city also came up.
Items such as worn out power poles (poles that have been in so long they are starting to rot) and other failing city service physical assets are beginning to take their toll on the cities budget.
Preventive maintenance in some areas has not been as strong as it could have been over the years, largely because the city has had little money to work with. Some of the infrastructure in Helper is decades old, and time is taking it's toll and the current council is concerned about the problem.
"It costs a lot to be proactive (about preventive maintenance)" stated Welch. "But we want to be. When a city is only reactive to these kinds of problems it catches up to them eventually."
The council took the preliminary budget under advisement, and will work to balance it within the next month. A budget work session will also take place in the next few weeks to work toward that end.
In other business the council performed the following actions:
The government officials selected a new council member to replace Kim Spradlin who recently passed away. Four people had contacted the city and said they were interested in the position. After an executive session, the council selected Chuck Buchanan as the new member.
The city council passed a resolution raising the fees for use of the Helper Auditorium. Deposits will be required to use the facility and rates will be based on use and the materials needed for an event.
"We want people to know that the facility is there for them to rent for many kinds of activities," stated councilman Kirk Mascaro.
The council also approved a five cent increase in garbage collection fees per the contract that the city has with City Sanitation.
The law making branch also heard from the cities planning and zoning board who feel some public input about what people want and don't want in the community is very important.
The board is planning to pass out a survey door to door beginning May 31 to residents and business owners in Helper. The survey will help pinpoint the direction residents want to proceed with planning issues within the city limits.
The board is also recruiting citizens and public service groups to help pass out the survey, and ask that any interested parties contact the city hall for information about the action. Surveys need to be returned to the city by June 10.