Council OK’s $3.9M budget
by Rick DeClue · News · March 15, 2013

The West Branch City Council approved a $3.92 million budget for the coming fiscal year beginning July 1.
Projected spending represents a decrease of 2 percent-$84,000 – below last year’s figures.

Total revenues are projected at $3.47 million. This is 7.5 percent — $281,000 -below this year’s budget, and leaves a projected shortfall of $514,200.

This figure will be covered almost entirely by $475,000 in bond proceeds related to the sewer lift station, plus Local Option Sales Taxes above those required for paying off the fire station addition.

Muckler said the city’s general fund has actually increased for each of the past three years. Other fund balances will fluctuate from year to year.

The property tax rate will remain at $12.04 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the fourth year in a row. He noted that this was lower than the 2009 rate.

The city will also continue to aggressively pay off debt. The loan for renovation of the city offices will be paid off by June 30, under this year’s budget. In the new budget, the city will make payments on its lawsuit obligation to a point where it can be paid off in 2015 – nine years ahead of schedule.

Muckler said clearing up these obligations increases the city’s borrowing capacity for future needs and provides flexibility to pursue the lowest cost financing option. This was evident in the city’s recent bond financing for the sewer lift station, he said.

The fire station addition will be paid off in 2015. This debt is being retired using LOST proceeds. According to Muckler, the council may ask voters to approve using that sales tax for street repairs since the fire department addition will be paid off.

The Public Works Department is currently upgrading its equipment with a new street sweeper and skid loader with attachments purchased last month. The equipment was partially financed with a two-year, $149,000 loan from Community State Bank.

Muckler said the council believes this will “kick start” an ongoing equipment replacement plan for the department. The city will also save money for vehicles for each of the public works, police and fire departments in the new budget.

Planned street projects include resurfacing Poplar Street, a block of Green Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, and South Downey Street leading to a pedestrian entrance to the Hoover complex at an estimated cost of more than $240,000.

The budget also allows aggressive sewer repairs in anticipation of future street work, Muckler said.

Money for sidewalks includes $47,000 to supplement a Safe Routes to School grant request submitted this month. The Iowa Department of Transportation will tell the city by June 1 if West Branch will get the grant.

The council approved funds for one-half of the costs of a crossing guard for Main and Oliphant streets during school hours. The city will pay $1,086 if West Branch Community Schools pays the other half.

The West Branch Library will be able to extend hours, with four hours on Sundays under consideration.

Parks and Rec support will provide new parking for Beranek and Wapsi Creek Parks, a bridge connecting West Branch Village to the Hoover Trail and one-half of the cost of a restroom at the new dog park proposed for North Downey Street. The other half will be funded privately through fundraising.

Other budget details include:

• Revenues from property taxes: 2013 — $1.32 million; budgeted 2014 $1.45 million, up 9.75 percent

• Revenues from Tax Increment Financing: 2013 — $97,400; budgeted 2014 — $302,500; up 210.57 percent — TIF revenues have fluctuated the past several years due to recertification of the figures as recommended by state auditors and West Branch’s financial advisors.

• Revenues from fees and services: 2013 — $772,100; budgeted 2014 — $866,200; up 12.19 percent – this primarily reflects rising water and sewer payments.

• Revenue from other financial sources; 2013 — $843,800; budgeted 2014 — $226,700; down 73.13 percent – this largely represents timing issues for debt financing proceeds.

• Public safety budgets: 2013 — $547,300; budgeted 2014 — $528,600; down 3.42 percent

• Public works budget: 2013 — $564,800; budgeted 2014 — $545,500; down 3.42 percent

• Capital projects expenses: 2013 — $650,000; budgeted for 2014 — $0; down 100 percent – this basically represents a reclassification of costs related to sewer repairs and the lift station to another category.

• Culture and recreation budget: 2013 — $485,500; budgeted 2014 — $548,900; up 13.06 percent

• Business type/enterprises expenses: 2013 — $785,600; budgeted 2014 — $1,241,800; up 58.07 percent – includes reclassification of sewer costs noted above.

After the approval vote, the council thanked Muckler for his efforts in preparing and guiding the council through the development of the budget.

Council Member Mark Worrell said, “after the last three years, we’re getting better at this.”

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