Looking at the numbers

City budget public hearing March 5

—Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Adri Sietstra Webster City City Manager Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez shows upcoming proposed public works projects Wednesday afternoon at city hall. Along with upcoming projects, Ortiz-Hernandez highlighted the council’s Feb. 12 budget work session items.

The City Council of Webster City will hold a public hearing on the 2018-2019 budget Monday, March 5 at their regular meeting.

“Every year the council has to adopt and submit to the state its annual budget of expenses as well as its request and authorization for property taxes,” said Webster City City Manager Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez. “This has to be done roughly before mid-March.”

The council met in a budget work session on Feb. 12 to go over the budget for 2018-2019 and look at the next three years also.

“The workshop is meant to give the council an opportunity to hear an overview of the overall budget broken down between the general fund as well as the other individual utilities and then be able to provide feedback or answer any questions or make any modifications to projects they want to fund at a certain level,” Ortiz-Hernandez said.

Ortiz-Hernandez provided some of the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget highlights.

The general fund encompasses many of the city’s obligations.

The estimated revenue for the 2018-2019 fiscal year is $3,736,376. Revenue is contributed to the general fund by property taxes, city taxes, licenses and permits, use of property (rentals at city properties), intergovernmental, service charges and miscellaneous revenue like donations. The number one contributor to the city’s general fund is property taxes, which is estimated to account for $1,904,133 of the 2018-2019 general fund’s total revenues.

Ortiz-Hernandez noted that a concern of many residents is the possible increase in property taxes. According to Ortiz-Hernandez, property tax rates will remain the same at 8.1 percent for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The city cannot levy any higher, which is important for residents to note.

“A lot of the stuff that people see in the community ties back to the general fund,” said Ortiz-Hernandez. “The general fund doesn’t have a whole lot of flexibility to be able to do things, so if we wanted to be able to add additional services, parks, a new swimming pool – we have to look at where is the money going to come from to build or start it as well as pay for ongoing maintenance.”

Due to limited flexibility with new projects that are paid for by the general fund, the council’s annual goal session helps determine what projects should be worked on and budgeted for in the coming years.

“That’s where the goal setting session that we just had back in January really plays a big role in helping us decide and give direction to the priorities we are going to focus on and where we lend our financial resources to address those,” said Ortiz-Hernandez.

The estimated expenses for the city’s general fund total $3,566,264. The general fund expenses include, but are not limited to, public safety, parks and recreation, some public works projects, the depot, and the senior center.

The number one largest general fund expense for 2018-2019 is the running of police department which is estimated at $1,212,967 for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. This accounts for nearly a third of the fund budget and includes police officers as well as dispatch and communications.

The city has also budgeted $64,791 in their capital equipment plan for the police department to account for purchasing new vehicles and repair in the near future.

“With the police department, we have been regularly replacing our vehicles so that we don’t get to the point where we are spending a lot of money on maintenance,” said Ortiz-Hernandez. “We currently are not budgeting for any vehicles this coming year. In the coming years we are going to have to replace vehicles almost back to back in subsequent years.”

The fire department comes in second at an estimated $425,121 for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

The city has budgeted $559,740 in their capital equipment plan for the fire department to account for a water tanker that will need to be replaced in the near future. The tanker is nearly thirty years old and is used primarily for rural fires, especially grass fires, where there is limited access to fire hydrants or other water sources. The city has applied for funding to FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program to help offset the majority of this cost. The city will find out later this summer if they have received the grant. The city has also budgeted $15,000 in their capital improvement plan for the fire department for 2018-2019. In the coming years, a pumper truck will also need to be replaced.

“I like to also point out not just things that are budgeted or planned for in the upcoming fiscal year, but also looking two to five years down the road. We try to project out both expenses and revenues as well as key pieces of equipment or items or projects that would need to be funded,” Ortiz-Hernandez said.

The biggest challenge that the city is going to have to move toward is upgrading their communications equipment. As the county is upgrading their dispatch equipment to the state system, the city will have to look at upgrading their own radio equipment within the next two years.

“We know the county is moving toward that and expect that it will be fully implemented by the end of the year,” Ortiz-Hernandez said. “We decided to wait for the system to be fully implemented and then visit this issue and budget it for the following fiscal year and make adjustments and necessary purchases to make sure our police and fire can communicate on that system.”

In the meantime when the county and city are on different operating systems, the county will be providing the local fire and police departments with radios so that communication can still be made between the county and cities. Each entity will be given at least three radios that have the capacity to communicate with the county.

“The upgrade is a big expense for us,” Ortiz-Hernandez said.

Radios alone to equip Webster City Police Officers are estimated to cost over $50,000.

Estimated budgeted expenses for the culture and recreation operating budget for the city for 2018-2019 is $918,652.

Culture and recreation encompasses parks and recreation, public grounds, Fuller Hall, the outdoor pool, Graceland Cemetery and the Senior Center.

“This is one of the expenses we think more positively about — the city and the community — are our parks, trails, recreation and Fuller Hall. It’s something that people have grown accustomed to seeing,” said Ortiz-Hernandez.

Possible future improvements in the capital equipment fund include an additional back 9 Frisbee golf course to accompany the current course at Brewer Creek Park, a stand-on sprayer for the city and cemetery grounds, and outdoor pool re-circulation pump rehab.

Another potential budget item for the next three years is a new outdoor pool. The city is still questioning whether or not a new pool is a possibility for the town. If the city were to build a new pool, a bond would require a 60 percent vote to pass.

“If the community has the appetite to approve a bond to go out and build something new, we may have to look at maybe not investing in the existing pool, knowing we’re going to have a new pool in the future,” said Ortiz-Hernandez.

As Wilson Brewer Park is being restored and rehabilitated over the next few years, Ortiz-Hernandez noted that the cost to maintain the park will increase, this will also be factored into the coming years’ budget plans.

The city will be sending out a survey in the coming months to ask citizens what they want and need in the community as well as what they would be comfortable paying to have certain opportunities and programs.

“Part of that is to gauge and solicit a greater level of input from residents in the community as to specific projects or the direction the community is headed so that the council and I and staff can know what some of those priorities are,” said Ortiz-Hernandez.

The city is also looking to budget for improvements at city hall, both aesthetic and I.T.

In the capital improvement plan, the city has an estimated budget for city hall remodel of $50,000. In the capital equipment portion, the city has an estimated budget of $64,069 to be used to upgrade the phone system, printer utility office, server, civic software and more.

The city is also looking to update their Geographic Information System (GIS) in the near future. The city hopes to purchase four in the next three to four years. Each device costs roughly $10,000.

“We’re looking at purchasing new devices to replace the last ones we had,” said Ortiz-Hernandez. “These devices are survey-grade and can get you down to a matter of inches.”

The updated system will give the city the ability to better map where utilities are located throughout the community as well as respond to power outages and shortages.

The new system would be streamlined and allow for better service to residents and would be a time saver for meter readers.

“We’re also looking at bringing in a firm to be able to map and locate all of our utilities and update our system maps,” Ortiz-Hernandez said. “That helps us obviously when we are doing locates and for projects.”

The city is also looking towards completing a series of public works projects. This would include two capital improvement watermain projects at Beach Street and Mary Anne’s. The estimated cost for these projects is $535,000.

A public hearing on the 2018-2019 Capital Improvement Budget and 2018-2019 through 2022-2023 Capital Improvement Plan will be held on Monday, March 5 at 5:40 p.m.

A public hearing on the proposed 2018-2019 Budget will be held Monday, March 5 at 5:45 p.m.

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