City fi­nance com­mit­tee pre­par­ing for 2018 bud­get plans

El Dorado News-Times - - Local - By Tia Lyons Staff Writer

Rev­enues for most city sales taxes are lag­ging be­hind 2015, but they are run­ning ahead of rev­enues for 2016, when the city ex­pe­ri­enced a $1 mil­lion rev­enue loss in the gen­eral fund.

Mem­bers of the El Do­rado City Coun­cil Fi­nance Com­mit­tee will take that in­for­ma­tion into 2018 bud­get talks, which are ex­pected to be­gin soon.

Pro­posed 2018 bud­gets have been sub­mit­ted for the po­lice, fire and mu­nic­i­pal air­port.

Robert Ed­monds, direc­tor of pub­lic works, told city of­fi­cials Wednesday that he ex­pects to sub­mit the pro­posed bud­get for his depart­ment by Fri­day, say­ing that it will in­clude the op­er­at­ing bud­get for the El Do­rado Wa­ter Util­i­ties.

City Trea­surer Bon­nie Wyles re­ported that all city sales taxes, with the ex­cep­tion of the El Do­rado Works eco­nomic devel­op­ment tax, are trend­ing be­low 2015.

The fi­nance com­mit­tee is us­ing 2015 num­bers to gauge trends for 2017 sales tax rev­enue, con­sid­er­ing the ma­jor in­come short­fall for 2016.

“Twenty-six­teen is the worst we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Wyles, who be­gan work­ing for the city in 2011.

The short­fall was at­trib­uted to lower con­sumer spend­ing and hun­dreds of con­tract work­ers leav­ing town fol­low­ing ex­tended stays for large main­te­nance and ex­pan­sion projects for lo­cal in­dus­tries.

Wyles said that through the end of Septem­ber, col­lec­tions on the city’s quar­ter-cent, one-cent, and one-cent solid waste cap­i­tal im­prove­ment taxes are 7.77 per­cent, 9.4 per­cent, and 7.76 per­cent higher, re­spec­tively, than the same time pe­riod in 2016.

How­ever, col­lec­tions on the three taxes are run­ning be­hind col­lec­tions of 2015.

The El Do­rado Works tax is up 9.43 per­cent from 2016 and 2.5 per­cent higher than 2015.

“We’re far from mak­ing up the deficit for 2016,” Hash cau­tioned.

The fi­nance com­mit­tee has met at least once a month this year to closely mon­i­tor city rev­enue trends for a tightly pre­pared 2017 bud­get.

With the ex­cep­tion of a rear-load­ing garbage truck and two po­lice cars to re­place units that were wrecked, the city put a hold on cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­tures for the year.

On Wednesday, Po­lice Chief Billy White and Fire Chief Chad Mosby said that while some line items are dwin­dling in their re­spec­tive bud­gets, they’ll be able to hold their own un­til the end of the year.

“At the end of the day, we’re get­ting our bills paid. We’re hav­ing to find money from some line items to pay other line items,” White said.

“We’re in the same boat as Chief White. Some line items are get­ting a lit­tle thin, and some line items, we’re rob­bing Peter to pay Paul, which is not un­usual,” Mosby said.

Ed­monds made sim­i­lar state­ments, adding, “I think we’re OK. Over­all, we should fin­ish fine. There’ll be some line items that will tapped out.”

Over­time Alderman Willie McGhee in­quired about over­time hours for city time and man­power that were used for preparation for and dur­ing the opening days of the Mur­phy Arts Dis­trict and Mu­sicFest.

White and Mosby said MAD is re­im­burs­ing the city for pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity and firstaid/med­i­cal ser­vices, re­spec­tively, for MAD, which kicked off on Sept. 27 — Oct. 1.

Mu­sicFest was held on Sept. 29 — Oct. 1. Both events were set in Downtown El Do­rado.

Ed­monds said he is still gath­er­ing ex­penses to sub­mit to MAD for re­im­burse­ment for city em­ploy­ees who worked dur­ing the grand opening of the arts and en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict.

“For pub­lic works, you’d bet­ter brace for the im­pact. There’s going to be sig­nif­i­cant over­time with all of the preparation and work after the festival,” Hash said.

Alderman Billy Blann in­quired about the work that was done after Hash and McGhee men­tioned that em­ploy­ees were work­ing late into night.

“What were they do­ing out at two and three in the morn­ing?” Blann said.

Ed­monds said it took some time to clean up city streets after thou­sands of peo­ple left MAD and Mu­sicFest events.

Ed­monds said the crowds left in waves after ear­lier shows ended and then later shows were held.

“They were pick­ing up trash, mov­ing bar­ri­cades. We had about 20 peo­ple out there. Prior to that, they spent a month and a half work­ing un­til dark ev­ery day prep­ping streets,” Ed­monds said. “We had a whole lot of streets to pave and lit­tle time to do it in.”

Going for­ward, Hash and Ed­monds said that while the city will con­tinue to sup­port MAD, much of the work will not be re­cur­ring.

Ed­monds said sev­eral downtown streets were repaved ahead of the grand opening, and cleanup dur­ing and after

events will mostly be needed for out­side venues.

“It de­pends. The things they have inside won’t gen­er­ate much waste, but things they have out­side — you get 5,000 peo­ple out­side, and it can get pretty messy,” Ed­monds said.

Hash said that if MAD con­tin­ues to grow, the city may con­sider form­ing a sup­port arm sep­a­rate from the depart­ment of pub­lic works to per­form such ser­vices as cleanup and set­ting up and re­mov­ing bar­ri­cades — du­ties city em­ploy­ees per­form for other large, out­door events, in­clud­ing Mu­sicFest and pa­rades.

Hash said crews are fin­ish­ing up downtown streets and repaving other streets in all four city wards.

Mosby also ad­vised al­der­men that his depart­ment will wrack up some over­time hours be­fore the end of year due to up­com­ing va­ca­tions and fill­ing in for three firefighters that re­cently left to to take jobs in the pri­vate sec­tor.

“That puts us down six,” Mosby said, adding that he hopes to be able to fill some of the open slots with cer­ti­fied can­di­dates after Civil Ser­vice ex­ams are ad­min­is­tered next week.

Elec­tronic city records The coun­cil agreed to hold off on a pro­posal that will make city records avail­able to the pub­lic on­line.

City Clerk Heather McVay pre­sented alderman with a con­tract from R&D Com­puter Sys­tems, LLC, to set up web dis­tri­bu­tion por­tals and pro­vide soft­ware, main­te­nance and tech­ni­cal sup­port to com­plete a long-run­ning pro­ject to dig­i­tize city records.

The first phase of the pro­ject was com­pleted last year with the scan­ning of city or­di­nances, res­o­lu­tions, min­utes and other doc­u­ments.

“Ev­ery­thing is scanned and ready to be up­loaded. They can do it re­motely,” McVay said, adding that she has done some of the work her­self to save the city money in phase one of the pro­ject.

She also said she has be­gun scan­ning min­utes from city board and com­mis­sion meet­ings so they may even­tu­ally be avail­able on­line.

The pro­posed con­tract in­cludes a one-time cost of $8,395.51. which would be good un­til June, when the fis­cal year for R&D ends.

McVay said the quote in­cludes $7,995 to de­velop the dis­tri­bu­tion por­tal and an­nual sup­port of $1,200.01.

The com­bined to­tal has been pro­rated with a 10 per­cent dis­count for nine months.

Start­ing in June 2018, an­nual sup­port costs would in­crease to the reg­u­lar price of $1,600.

Blann and Alderman Judy Ward ques­tioned the $1,600 amount, ask­ing what ser­vices would be in­cluded.

The two al­der­men, along with Alderman Vance Wil­liamson, asked if a per-hour pay­ment op­tion was avail­able to cover ser­vices when needed.

The $1,600 would be in ad­di­tion to an an­nual fee of $1,419.18 for ex­ist­ing soft­ware and main­te­nance for phase one.

McVay said she would check with R&D for an­swers to the al­der­men’s ques­tions.

McVay pre­vi­ously said she was ad­vised by Hash to hold off on pre­sent­ing the con­tract for phase two in light of the 2016 rev­enue deficit.

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