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Council OKs 'unbalanced' budget despite concern

Mayor says budget's numbers are deceiving

In its last meeting of the 2011-12 fiscal year Tuesday, the Morris City Council approved by a 5-to-1 vote the budget for the next fiscal year.

Alderman Drew Muffler was the lone vote against the budget. A vote by the mayor was required because five votes were needed to pass the budget. With Muffler's no vote, there were only four yes votes.

Mayor Richard Kopczick, aldermen Ken Sereno, Julian Houston, Duane Wolfe and Bill Martin voted in favor of the budget. Aldermen Don Hansen, Randy Larson and Barry Aldrich were absent from the meeting.

Because May 1, the start of the fiscal year, landed on Tuesday, the meeting was held Tuesday morning rather than the normal Monday night.

"I haven't had a lot of time to look at the budget ... I can't in good conscience vote for an unbalanced budget," said Muffler when casting his no vote.

The budget was placed on file last month for the aldermen to review. For the new fiscal year, the estimated revenues of all the city's 19 funds is about $24 million. For the expenditures, it's about $28 million. The estimated cash balance at the end of the year is about $21 million.

The General Fund has estimated revenues at almost $7.9 million, expenditures at about $8 million and an expected end of year cash balance at about $5.8 million.

After the meeting, Muffler said the city's most important and largest fund, its General Fund, estimates more expenditures than revenues. He said Budget Officer John Enger creates the budget based on the city's spending habits and, therefore, the city and aldermen need to get it under control.

Mayor Kopczick said after the meeting the budget does appear unbalanced, as it does every year, but it is not.

"However, when you look at the end of the year, when we're done, we are balanced," he said.

Last year, he said, it was estimated the end of year balance for April 2012 would be under $20 million, and it's now over $25 million.

The numbers projected in the budget include numerous projects, but the city will not actually complete all the projects it has budgeted. For example, in last year's budget, the city designated $1.8 million for the pool, which was not completed, so it rolled over, Kopczick said.

In addition, in this year's budget, there is more than $2 million budgeted for airport improvements for the airport's runway expansion, but the city will be reimbursed 97.5 percent of their cost for that.

"It could be $2-$3 million or nothing like this year, it depends on how the purchasing process goes," Enger said during the budget hearing. The city has purchased three of the five properties it needs for the expansion.

If the budget doesn't reflect the possible projects, they city cannot move forward with them. If the projects weren't budgeted now, the council would have to amend the budget to complete the project. Just because a project is budgeted for does not mean it has to be completed.

"We don't want an amendment ordinance at every other city council meeting" he said.


A public hearing on the budget was held at the last council meeting of the fiscal year, when Enger went over some of the line items of the different funds.

The General Fund reflects a 3-percent pay increase for most city employees, including the police department and public works, Enger said. The union is currently in negotiations with the city.

In the Street and Alley Department section of the General Fund, he said there is an increased amount for spending on street maintenance. This year, $175,000 is budgeted, where last year it was only $68,800. Two years ago, it was $146,346.

"The reason is because most the streets last year were in the TIF, and we used (Tax Increment Finance Fund dollars) to complete those streets," Enger said.

For the Garbage Fund, Enger pointed out that in 2011 a $250,000 loan was transferred to it from the General Fund. The next year it took in $930,000 in revenues and about $125,000 in property taxes, so the fund is solid, but not enough to pay back the full $250,000. A $100,000 repayment is budgeted.

The city has a West U.S. 6 Turning Lane Improvement Fund with $117,000 budgeted for the project. In the Solid Waste Management Tax Fund, which are the taxes from Environtech Landfill, the revenues have continued to decrease, but expenditures are increasing due to well monitoring and closure costs required to close the landfill.

"As they prepare to close, revenue continues to drop," Enger said.

The Motel Tax Fund shows an increase in budgeted expenditures for park improvements, I&M Canal improvements, park equipment and event sponsorship and donations. But there is a decrease in city special events and tourism expenses.

"The finance committee is looking at cutting some donations," Enger said.

The Airport Operations Fund reflects an increase in revenue from fuel sales. This revenue has continued to increase in the last few years. With that, the aviation fuel expenditure has also increased.


In financial action during the first council meeting of the new fiscal year, which followed the last meeting, the council approved decreasing the automatic water and sewer fee increase for residents. The fee was supposed to go up by 6 percent, but the council voted to make it a 3-percent increase.

Muffler voted against this, stating in these economic times he felt there should be no increase in this fee or other city fees.

A few years ago, the city did not increase the fee. The year after that the city had a 3-percent increase, and then last year it had the 6-percent increase, Kopczick said.

The residents' garbage fee will also increase following the city's contract. The contract is through September 2014 and contains an annual increase for fuel costs. This year's increase will be about $8 a year or $2 a quarter for residents.

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