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City budget up for third reading Wednesday night; no new taxes expected

Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 1:00 am

Barring an unforeseen snag, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen is expected to pass the third reading for the 2014 fiscal budget Wednesday. It’s a budget that does not include a tax increase and features a one-percent raise for all full-time employees.

The budget passed its first two readings and the third and final reading is scheduled for special-called 5 p.m. meeting Wednesday at Manchester City Hall.

“I’m real happy with the budget,” said Alderman Cheryl Swan, who chairs the finance committee. “We were able to have a one percent raise for all full-time employees across the board and some raises for a handful of employees like [police chief] Mark Yother and [assistant chief] Adam Floied.”

Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman feels good about the budget but added that some concessions that were made will need to be revisited next year.

“As a whole it worked out pretty good,” said Norman. “We took a lot of things out of the budget and we are going to have to figure out a way later on, depending on how the economy is going, to put those things back in.”

Norman used the police department as an example.

“In the police department we took out a couple of vehicles and we have to find a way to put those back in,” he said.

Bringing the budget even without proposing a tax increase did force the board to dip into its unassigned fund balance to the tune of about $757,000.

Out of that money, $540,000 is earmarked for the purchase of a new quint fire truck for the Manchester Fire and Rescue Department. The other $217,000 is set to cover a general shortfall in available revenues to bring the budget even without burdening taxpayers with a hike in property tax rates – which will remain at 2.2999. The city will be left with $2,154,222 in its reserves after pulling out the $757,000.

While admitting that dipping into the city’s reserve fund may not be ideal, Swan emphasized that the city still has approximately 18 percent of its overall budget in the unassigned fund balance.

“Fifteen percent of the budget for cash reserve [is comfortable],” Swan said. “Of course I would love to be at 25 percent and in a better economy we can be. But I am comfortable at no less than 15 percent and I believe we are somewhere around 18 percent.”

The $540,000 pulled from reserves to purchase the new quint fire truck goes towards replacing the fire department’s 75-foot aerial-apparatus truck. The aerial-apparatus truck, purchased used from in March of 2011 for $12,500, didn’t pass its last inspection, leaving the department in need of a truck to maintain the city’s ISO rating, according to city officials.

“We can use it as a fire engine or a rescue truck,” said recently-hired MFD Chief George DeShields . “It will perform quite a few functions for us.”

A quint truck is a fire engine capable of performing five functions – pumping water, carrying a water supply, performing aerial operations, carrying ground ladders and carrying fire hoses.

DeShields added that most of the equipment needed will be on the truck or readily available to the department, which was a sticking point when the safety committee discussed the best path for purchasing a truck in late March.

“The majority of the things we need will be on there,” DeShields said. “It will come with a full complement of ground ladders and we have a lot of the hoses and stuff we need for it.”

Recreation budget a sticking point for some

Alderman Donny Parsley was the lone alderman to vote against passing the budget through the first two readings, citing too much subsidies going to the recreation department.

“I’m looking at some numbers on the recreation side of it and, well, it bothers me that we have to keep putting money into the recreation center,” Parsley told the Manchester Times Friday. “We have some projected revenues that are supposed to be in by the end of this month and I’m waiting to see if they are here … if they aren’t I probably won’t vote for [the budget] at the third reading.”

The proposed 2014 budget calls for subsidizing the recreation department $475,000, which is $75,000 more than last year’s budget. Of that total, $95,478 is to pay the note on the recently acquired park land set to house the new soccer complex at the corner of State Route 55 and Waite St. The bulk of the remainder – $213,365 – goes towards operations of the parks, which provide little revenue. Recreation administration, which is a separate budget altogether but is still under the umbrella of the recreation department, takes a $214,361 chunk. Recreation administration has no revenue attached to its budget.

According to parks and recreation director Bonnie Gamble, the recreation center alone is returning 92 percent of its expenses back while allowing 80-year-olds free admission and a 50-percent discount to the financially challenged and an active-military discount. The proposed 2014 budget calls for the general fund to subsidize the recreation center $92,656.

“I think we need to tighten their belts is what I feel like,” added Parsley. “I have a problem with all of this part-time labor.”

When asked for suggested changes, Parsley said: “There are several things we could do to change some of those numbers. I feel like the public works could do a better service [maintaining the parks].

“I think it could be managed better,” Parsley added.

The proposed budget calls for $232,702 in part-time wages for workers at the recreation center in fiscal year 2014 and $70,000 in part-time labor at the park.

The third reading for the budget is 5 p.m. Wednesday at city hall – 200 W. Fort St.