NEWS HEADLINES

City tightening belt as cash flow slows

By Bob Buckel | Published Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Don’t look for any spending sprees from the city of Decatur between now and the end of the fiscal year.

Finance Director Brad Burnett told city council members Monday that money will be tight for the rest of the budget year as the city deals with lower-than-expected revenue.

“Basically, it seems like economic growth has slowed and we just have fewer resources available this year than last year,” he said. His report came during a work session prior to Monday evening’s council meeting.

Burnett said revenues compared to the budget are fine – but a comparison to last year shows the city’s income is down by $22,000 from 2013.

He said municipal court income is down $17,000, the Civic Center is down $4,000, sales tax income is $19,000 less, the hotel occupancy tax is yielding $22,000 less and cemetery income is off by $6,000.

There are a few bright spots. Revenue is up by $19,000 in building permits and $9,000 in property taxes – but the combined total of 43 revenue accounts leaves the city with $22,710 less than last year.

“Our mid-year results comparison to budget doesn’t send up many red flags,” Burnett said. “However, when we compare to last year’s results, we have expended $105,000 more this year.

“With the exception of the airport, planning, Civic Center, inspections and emergency management, every department has spent more this year than last year.”

He said the answer is to ask each city department to watch expenses carefully and try to be below budget by the time the fiscal year ends at the end of September.

“Unless something significant happens on the revenue side, we’re going to ask our departments to be below budget on expenses,” he said. “If we’re going to be below budget on revenue, we need to be below budget on expenses, too.”

WATER FUND IN SAME SITUATION

Burnett said the city’s water fund, which has an independent budget, is also tight right now.

“Probably the most important indicator is cash,” he said. “At the end of March, we had $163,000 less than last year and $65,000 less than March 2012. We need to watch this closely.”

Decatur is facing the same problem Fort Worth and other area cities face: water conservation has led to reduced water use, which has reduced income significantly. Meanwhile, fixed costs – the debt incurred when water plants were built and upgraded – as well as other operating costs, have not declined.

City manager Brett Shannon said Tarrant Regional Water District recently raised the cost of raw water by 11 cents per 1,000 gallons – more than a 10 percent hike – and the array of permitting fees Decatur has to pay the state of Texas have also risen.

“It’s chemicals, it’s electricity – and on top of that, people are not consuming as much water as they used to,” he said. “It’s never popular when you ask people to conserve, then you go up on the rate.”

But that, he said, is exactly what Decatur may have to do. He said several staff members will be exploring that option over the next few months and will come back to the council with a recommendation.

Public Works Director Earl Smith noted that Lake Bridgeport, the city’s water source, is 21.5 feet low, and rainfall this year was about half of normal through March. The city’s raw water treatment plant is processing about a million gallons a day – well below last year’s for all three months so far in 2014.

ACTION ITEMS GO QUICKLY

After the workshop presentations, the few action items on the council’s budget were disposed of quickly. The council:

  • approved an amendment to the city’s comprehensive master plan to change just over four acres along U.S. Highway 81/287 Business, alongside the U.S. Forest Service, Karl Klement Motors and the skating rink, from office and high-density residential to commercial;
  • approved on first reading rezoning that property from multi-family residential to commercial;
  • proclaimed May 9 as Butterfield Stage Days Karl Klement Ram PRCA Rodeo Pink Night and encouraged everyone to wear pink that day;
  • approved a final report on the city’s Sanitary Sewer Overflow Initiative – a five year project to help the city avoid a penalty to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ);
  • approved an interlocal agreement to let the Decatur Police Department purchase uniforms through a cooperative with the City of Frisco;
  • reappointed Gary Cocanougher and Dwight Reeves to two-year terms on the Water District board, with councilmember Susan Cocanougher abstaining; and
  • got an update from Police Chief Rex Hoskins on the progress of the city’s “reverse 9-1-1″ notification system and possible costs of installing additional civil defense warning sirens.

One Response to “City tightening belt as cash flow slows”

  1. Scott Pierce says:

    Remember Wise County before the Barnett Shale created thousands of new jobs, 0 growth and low taxes.

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