Weatherford council members had their first look at the Fiscal Year 2012-13 budget during a special work session Monday evening.
Director of Management and Budget Chad Janicek said the city is in better financial shape this year than last. Last year, the city used $150,000 from its fund balance to balance the budget. This year, that has turned into a $100,000 surplus. The city still has 123 days in its end-of-year balance, more than the 120 days the council asked for and the state mandated 90 days.
Expenditures dropped from $27,419,433 last year to $27,383,099 this year. That, as well as an expected increase in revenues, will keep the city from having to change its tax rate from its present 46.36 cents per $100 valuation.
He said the budget was a “rebuilding” budget and the city still has many challenges ahead, including getting funding to replace fleet vehicles as well as infrastructure needs and rebuilding service levels. “We want to work on priorities while maintaining flexibility,” Janicek said.
Janicek said the city worked on a number of council-driven priorities when working on the budget. One was trying to keep staff consistent by providing compensation packages. A 2 percent cost of living allowance and 2 percent merit increase, where needed, were accommodated for.
The council had also asked for the use of contract labor where possible, which is being done. Council also asked for staff to seek funding for street projects.
Janicek said the city is trying some pilot programs this year, which are not part of the regular budget, including the use of animal lookup kiosks where people could access and see what kind of animals are at the animal shelter, as well as the use of an outreach coordinator who would work with volunteer groups at the shelter.
The city is also looking to purchase two vehicles for the police department, a loader and mowers for public works and a fire truck for the fire department. Janicek said the city wanted to try a lease purchase plan for the fire truck, which is expected to cost around $500,000.
Councilwoman Heidi Wilder wondered about the logistic of that, saying with low interest rates expected to remain, it might make more sense to buy the vehicle outright.
Fire Chief Paul Rust said the department has three vehicles in need of repair and the department wanted to take an active approach and spread the payments out over a number of years.
“We don’t want to keep vehicles so long they become a liability,” Rust said.
Janicek said they would bring back some options before a final decision is made.
Another budget work session is scheduled for Aug. 14.