City looking to increase overall spending by 5 percent

Seymour City Council had its first look Monday at the city’s proposed 2019 budget, which represents an overall 5 percent increase in general fund spending.

There will be a public hearing on the budget during the city council meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 8 at city hall. The council will then adopt the budget Oct. 22.

If passed, the budget increase will help fund pay raises for city employees to the tune of around 3 percent, which is up slightly from the 2.5 percent wage increase they received this year.

Projected general fund revenues for 2019 are $13,249,948, and the proposed budget is $13,496,631, meaning the budget is technically too high by $246,683.

Mayor Craig Luedeman said the city would have a projected $269,933 in unused appropriations; however, that would balance the budget. He requires all departments save back 2 percent of their total budget as a safety net, he said.

The general fund receives local property tax revenue and currently is funded by a tax rate of $1.38 per $100 of taxable property.

Luedeman said he expects the rate to actually drop around 3 cents because of the city’s growing assessed value and other factors.

General fund budget requests for 2019 include an additional $10,000 payment to the Humane Society of Jackson County, a new computer technician position at the police department, one more first class firefighter position and another public transit driver.

The city also will have to pay for the city election in 2019. Officials budgeted $20,400 in 2018 to prepare for that expense, Luedeman said.

“We put that in there last year just so it wasn’t a sticker shock for next year,” he said.

He said the election amount could be cut in half or more if the county would allow the city to have a centralized polling location instead of having to pay people to staff several polling sites throughout the city.

Another department where Luedeman said there is room for potential decreases is the Department of Public Works. He said there are three positions in the budget that are not currently filled that could be cut.

“If we’re not going to fill them, let’s quit budgeting for them,” Luedeman said. “Let’s get the budget a little leaner and make it look like what it’s supposed to look like.”

The department was going to have to purchase two new automated trash trucks in 2019 at a cost of $646,000 because the city’s two existing trucks quit working.

Luedeman said by putting a $40,000 new engine in one of the trucks, they are able to keep it in operation. The city is planning on applying for a grant to pay for the second truck, he said.

The general fund isn’t the only source of funding the city has available.

In 2016, Jackson County implemented a local option income tax, or LOIT, to help fund public safety. That tax will generate a projected $1,118,916 in 2019 for the city to use for public safety needs other than personnel.

The proposed 2019 budget for the public safety fund is $1,218,298, or 12 percent higher than this year, so Luedeman said around $75,000 needs to be cut before the council adopts the budget in October.

He said he planned to sit down with both Fire Chief Brad Lucas and Police Chief Bill Abbott to lower that budget.

New expenses requested in that fund include a $50,000 fire training facility at Freeman Field, which will help the city improve its fire protection or ISO rating. By lowering the ISO rating, the city can help lower homeowners insurance rates. Seymour is currently rated a 3 out of 10 but is trending toward a 4, Luedeman said.

The fire department also is in need of a new aerial truck that will cost between $1.5 and $1.8 million. The present aerial truck, which has a 100-foot platform, was put into service in February 1997 and cost $564,388.

Luedeman said they won’t have to pay for the truck until 2020, but he would like to have the money budgeted so they can go ahead and order the truck next year.

“It takes a year to build that kind of truck,” he said.

The police department has requested $100,000 for new computer servers because two of theirs crashed this year, Luedeman said. The department also is working to build a cloud-based data system that will be used by the whole city.

“Eventually, all of our storage from all of our buildings will go to the police department, where it will be secure and locked down,” he said.

The department also is need of all new body cameras, Luedeman said.

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What: Public hearing on the 2019 budget for the city

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 8

Where: Seymour City Hall, 301-309 N. Chestnut St.

Final adoption is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at city hall.