Council approves $59.6M city budget

The Lebanon City Council has adopted a $59.6 million budget, an increase of about 8.5 percent, and about $5.7 million, an increase of about 2.8 percent, in urban renewal district budgets.

The council voted unanimously to approve the 2019-20 budget during its regular meeting Wednesday, June 12. The new fiscal year begins July 1. Present were councilors Jason Bolen, Robert Furlow, Rebecca Grizzle, Wayne Rieskamp, Karin Stauder and Michelle Steinheble, and Mayor Paul Aziz.

The bulk of the increase in the city budget is related to inflation, an increase in Public Employees Retirement System rates, transfers to reserves for future capital projects and the initial repayment of loans for the construction of the new River Road Water Treatment Plant, which is finished and now supplying water, according to City Manager Gary Marks.

The city’s “effective budget,” which excludes transfers among funds, money that is effectively counted twice in the budget total, increases from $49.4 million to $52.5 million, a 6.3 percent increase in the city’s total budget.

Without capital expenditures, about $20 million in 2019-20, and contingency funds, most of which are carried over to the next budget year, the city’s “operating budget” increases by 11.9 percent, from $23.3 million to $26 million.

The budget maintains service levels and more, Marks said. It adds 2.7 full-time equivalent positions, including an increase from .8 FTE to 1 FTE for the Community Development Director and 2.5 FTE in the Senior Services Department for the LINX bus system. That includes a dispatcher and 1.5 FTE in drivers.

Among highlights, the city will begin the next phase of the Westside Interceptor wastewater line in 2019-20, and the Porter Park projects should be complete this summer, Marks said, and citywide, contingencies increased by 17 percent to $6.4 million, exceeding the goal of 19 percent.

From the city’s transient occupancy tax, the budget appropriates $85,000 for the Chamber of Commerce to support the Visitors Center and fund the Tourism Grant Program and $25,000 to the Lebanon Downtown Association to support the Main Street manager position and meet a council goal.

Also included in the budget are five items from the Community Strategic Plan and three council goals.

Among strategic action items are the Ralston Park Improvement Plan, exploring the feasibility and utility of creating a parks and recreation district, maintaining and expanding library program offerings, installing lighting and security cameras where crime is a concern and maintaining police funding and staffing commensurate with community growth, which also is a council goal.

To meet council goals, the budget also includes funding for the Downtown Building Restoration Program, Main Street tree replacement, holiday tree lighting installation, Main Street audio system installation, completion of the Academy Square welcome monument and landscaping and a City Facilities Master Plan.

The city budgeted $15.6 million in the General Fund, an increase of about $1.6 million based on higher property tax revenue forecasts for 2019-20. It includes a 2.5-percent increase for cost-of-living adjustments. The actual rate for the city’s AFSCME union employees remains to be determined through negotiations.

Among General Fund revenue, the city projects $5.4 million from taxes, $2.2 million in franchise and permit fees, $3 million in transfers from other funds, a beginning fund balance of about $3.5 million, $660,000 in intergovernmental shared revenue and $350,000 from fines.

The largest General Fund expenses include $6 million on police services, $1.2 million on public works, $668,000 in parks,  $649,000 for the Finance Department, $616,000 for the library, $452,000 in administration and economic development.

The city’s water, wastewater and storm water funds are projected to raise some $11.3 million in charges for service with another, $9.3 million in beginning fund balances and bond proceeds and $893,000 in transfers, a total of $21.6 million.

Budgeted expenditures include $9 million in capital outlays, $4.2 million in materials and services and $1 million in personnel expenses. It also transfers $3.5 million out to other funds and pays $1.8 million on debt service, with $2 million held in contingencies.

Total water operations are budgeted at $5.7 million, and wastewater operations are budgeted at $4.8 million.

In addition to the capital outlays in water and wastewater, the city budgeted some $9.1 million in capital outlays using funds from systems development charges, which are imposed on new development to pay for the expansion of those systems, primarily to fund the Westside Interceptor project and a Storm Water Master Plan.

In total, the city has budgeted $12.2 million for personnel expenses, $8.2 million for materials and services, $20.2 million in capital outlays and $6.8 million in debt service.

At the council meeting June 12, councilors adjusted the budget to include two vehicles, a street sweeper truck and a sludge truck, which had not been included in the original budget approved by the Budget Committee on May 16.

Also, $7,821 is being moved from contingency funds to combine with $65,179 in grant funds to buy a new bus.

Increases approved by the council bring the budget amount to $59,561,361 – $128,179 more than what was approved by the Budget Committee.

Councilors also discussed whether to use North Gateway Urban Renewal District funds to reimburse Samaritan Health for fees it has paid to build a drug treatment center at the corner of Main and Tangent streets.

Marks and Aziz said the amount would be in the $116,000 range and that the money could come from URD funds, since the fees were paid into that budget.

Marks noted that the city has reimbursed Samaritan for fees paid for “virtually every project Samaritan has done” in its Samaritan Campus.

“I want to make a contribution to the drug treatment center,” Aziz said.

Grizzle said she liked the idea, but wanted to think about it.

Marks responded that the council would not be making a final decision on June 12.

“You’re just positioning yourself so you have the option,” he said.