(updated 2/11/13 to note change of work session location to the Atlantic Public Library)
The Atlantic City Council will hold work sessions to go over the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Budget this Tuesday and Wednesday beginning at 5:30-p.m. both days (Feb. 12th & 13th), at the Atlantic Public Library’s meeting room. City Administrator Doug Harris says the proposed budgets for all operating funds in FY 2014 total 10-million 184-thousand 194 dollars, which Harris says is a decrease of more than $3.475-million (25.4%) from the total estimated expenditures for the current Fiscal Year (FY 2013). The main reason for the decrease he says, is a reduction of the Wastewater budget, which reflects completion of the treatment plant project in FY 2013. The net increase for all other funds, amounts to $69,475, or One-percent.
In his nearly inch-thick report to the Council, Harris says the General Operating Fund (which supports most of the core municipal services and is funded through the property tax levy capped by the State at $8.10 per $1,000 of taxable value, after rollback), shows a decrease of $216,299, or 7-percent. A shifting of Police vehicles and equipment to the Debt Service Fund accounts for the budget decrease of slightly more than $97,460, but the greatest factor is a $240,000 decrease in the Fire Department, due to a one-time grant it received this year for Cass County emergency communication equipment that passed through the books.
The Debt Service Fund, according to Harris, has increased in the proposed budget a little more than $671, 265….$450,000 of which reflects how a new accounting system now shows equipment purchased with bond proceeds were paid out of the fund instead of one of the operating funds. The actual increase in the annual debt service cost for the two-year equipment note is only $9,000 says Harris, which is 3.6-percent over the current year. Another big item in the fund is the increase in debt service payments for the new wastewater treatment plant.
Harris says the City’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) calls for issuing more General Obligation (G.O.) Bonds this Spring, to fund FY 2014 and FY 2015 CIP’s. He says the debt service payments on the new bond will result in a net increase of about $87,000 next year, which will be offset slightly, by the fact that transfers are down $49,000.
Doug Harris says the City’s Employment Benefits Fund is up slightly more than $42,370 (5.3%). The biggest increase comes in the form of Health Insurance Premiums, which are up $20,567 (5.3%). Premiums are also up 15%, but the cost has been largely offset by higher deductibles paid by employees. IPERS rates have increased 5.8%.
The bottom line concerning most citizens, is how the proposed budget will affect their property taxes. Harris says the proposed budget has six funds that have property tax levies. Under the proposed budget for FY 2014, the tax levy for Atlantic would be $17.68, which is an increase of 44-cents per $1,000 of taxable valuation, or 2.5%. The tax rate went from $17.95 in 2005 to $14.76 before steadily moving backup. The new levy Harris says, is just 27-cent less than the levy in 2005. The majority of the increase in the tax rate is due to a 38-cent increase in the Debt Service levy.
Harris says a Citizen Survey conducted in 2o10 indicated widespread dissatisfaction over the condition of the streets, and improving the streets was their highest priority, followed by storm and sanitary sewer, as well as park improvements. 2014 according to Harris, will mark the 4th year the City has embarked on a plan to improve the neglected infrastructure, and significant progress is being made, but “The road to long-term sustainability will still be challenging,” as the City seeks ways to pay for annual street repairs with current revenue, rather than through long-term bond financing, which is no longer a viable option after this year. Harris says the Council needs to “Make some major decisions before FY 2016″ with regard to the infrastructure improvements and how to pay for them.