Although the recommended 2020 budget proposed by Mayor Steve Rosenthal may still need some tweaking, the city aldermen voted unanimously on Thursday to levy a two-mill tax increase to cover the projected expenses.
Rosenthal presented the aldermen with a spreadsheet that revealed a $209,679.16 deficit, and pointed out that the amount was in advance of adding in the tax increase.
“If we do the two-mill that will generate about $104,000,” he said.
Even after adding in the tax a revised deficit of about $105,000 would still exist, but Rosenthal said this is not out of the ordinary and the fiscal year usually ends with the city being in better financial shape than projected.
“Even though we budget a deficit every year, out of the nine years I’ve been doing this, we’ve only actually had one year deficit,” he said.
Rosenthal asserted that the city’s shortages are usually not a “true deficit” because the city has the money to back up the shortfall. He said the one year that the city had a factual shortage it was around $60,000.
Alderman Darrell Simpson asked if the proposed amounts included the possible employee share of the health insurance and Rosenthal said that it did not.
He added that he would present two options to the city lawgivers at Monday’s regular session. The first is based on a suggestion from Alderman Sam Brock that involved percentages and the second is Rosenthal’s idea based on incremental increases derived from the employee salary level.
“I did it on the second one, which left a balance of the increase, of $67,609. That’s just the increase,” he said.
Alderman Gary Fratesi asked if 100% of the insurance cost was already included in the proposed budget and Rosenthal indicated that it was. He surmised that regardless of which employee insurance-match option the aldermen picked it would generate between $40,000 to $50,000 towards the insurance increase.
Flipping page-by-page through the document, the city fathers launched questions and suggestions at the mayor about the proposed expenditures for about 45 minutes. Their apparent motive was an effort to highlight possible places where adjustments could be done.
According to Rosenthal nearly 80 percent of the budget is employee salaries, which leaves only about 20 percent available as adjustable expenses. Rosenthal said the city budgets for 120 people, but never expects to have that many, especially at the start of a new year. “Typically we stay about 80 percent staffed,” said Rosenthal.
He said the proposed budget was fairly close to what was requested by the department heads and added that the only new major purchase was a vehicle for the assistant fire chief.
“I did leave the street repair machine in there that we had in the budget last year, which we lease that, so the budget cost on that is $50,000,” he said.
Rosenthal said that if things keep moving as planned the proposed budget should be approved on October 3 even though adjustments seem imminent. “The only thing that we need to vote on tonight would be the millage,” he said.
The budget is supposed to be approved by the start of the fiscal year.
“After October 1, until we get an approved budget, by law, we can’t write a check,” said Rosenthal.