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Cost of Price is going up

Sun Advocate publisher

City budget, utility rates set to increase next fiscal year

What could have been a spirited public hearing on May 23 at the Price City Council Chambers turned into quiet approval of the tentative budget for the city for 2012-13.

In the past two weeks Price City had sent letters to all its utility customers that some of the rates were going up and packaged that information with the fact the council would be looking at the tentative approval of the budget. Some expected a number of people to show up and at least ask questions about the rate increases and budget.

But the audience that night was only composed of city managers, two personnel from the health department, a few members of the Price Police Department and two local news reporters.

Only a little discussion was heard amongst the council, in particular one conversation about hiring practices as it related to seasonal workers and the budget. With that resolved the council passed the tentative financials for the next fiscal year.

Revenues for the budgets general fund come from a number of different places including sales tax (which is expected to increase 9.5 percent next year), property tax, highway taxes (expected to increase 5.4 percent) and from the electric fund (collected from users of the city's power system).

There are also some fund balances that will be left from the current years budget which will be incorporated in the 2012-13 budget.

The city's expenditure budget is broken down into many components, as are most budgets. Overall the city expects general fund expenditures to reach $9,683,072 for 2012-13. This is a 12.6 percent increase over last year's budget.

Much of that increase is due to Class C road projects that will expend about $650,000. The city will also be including in this budget a $180,000 payment for liability insurance, which was not in last years budget. This was left out last year because it was not within the total fiscal year. The payment date has now been set to comply with the budget timelines.

Over the next year capital improvements for the city will increase almost 85 percent over the last fiscal year. The largest increase in that area will come in the way of capital projects on the city's power system ($1,210,000). Two areas (information systems and the swimming pool) will see large decreases under the tentative budget.

Transfer of funds also plays into the city's 2012-13 budget with the largest transfer going from the electric fund ($2,295,985) to the general fund. This is because some city service funds that make money are used to support other services the city provides. Other transfers include $518,000 from the ZAP tax fund to capital improvements and $484,300 from the general fund to the swimming pool, amongst others.

The city will also find itself raising electric rates to its customers by 8 percent this coming year due to the fact that they are seeing an increase from their supplier. In addition during the current fiscal year the city created a Storm Water Utility to fund infrastructure, operation and maintenance of runoff water systems in the city. Beginning July 1 residential customers will be charged a dollar per month, small businesses will be charged $2 per month and large businesses $3 per month for the service. Revenues from these charges will be held in a fund balance as the city plans for infrastructure projects in that area for 2013-14.

Base water rates for customers will also be increasing in the next fiscal year, up $2.34 over the current year to handle bond debt service that is connected to water and sewer system improvements in the city.

In the general budget fund the most costly department to operate next year will be the police department. The budgeted amount is $1,799,400, but that will need to be revised somewhat because of the changes in administration and promotions within the department in the last few weeks.

Next is the streets department with a budget of $1,672,900 for next year. Other budgeted amounts include that for parks and cemeteries ($702,750), the library ($412,400), sanitation ($346,000), building maintenance ($327,200), finance ($264,500 and the city attorneys office ($153,700).

Overall out of all funds used for running the city the expenditures will be $25,359,304. Of that wages and benefits for employees will be $6,453,715, operations and maintenance will amount to $14,978,589 and capital project totals will be $3,927,000.

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