Council gives tentative OK to using sewer funds to pay city expenses

Seymour Clerk-Treasurer Fred Lewis won’t have to worry about running out of money to pay the city’s bills this year, even though the city won’t receive property tax revenue for another three months.

City council members voted unanimously Monday to give tentative approval to an ordinance authorizing Lewis to borrow up to $5 million from the Seymour Municipal Sanitation Utility as needed to operate the city.

Resident Mike Kelly questioned why the city isn’t using the money to fix the sewers.

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“If you have that much money in the sewer fund, then why don’t you spend some of that money on the sewers, upgrading the sewers, instead of using it like a personal piggy bank?” Kelly asked.

Kelly is running for mayor this year on the Democratic ticket.

He said city officials need to do a better job of financial planning so there isn’t a shortfall and need to borrow money.

“If I don’t have the money, then I usually don’t get it,” he said. “It’s about budgeting the money.”

He doesn’t think the city should count on the sewer utility as a revenue stream. But it’s a measure officials have taken for years to avoid paying interest on a loan from a bank.

Seymour will receive its property tax distribution in June and in December, said Councilman Lloyd Hudson, chairman of the finance committee.

“There’s a need for additional funds before that time, so we are borrowing from the sanitation (fund) to hold us over until we get our tax dollars,” he said. “We do this every year.”

The loan from the sewer utility fund is temporary and must be paid back by the end of the year, he said.

Lewis said the amount required by the city has never reached $5 million, but that amount was set so he doesn’t have to keep coming back to the council to request more money.

“It doesn’t mean we’ll borrow that much, but we don’t have to keep coming back every time we need some,” Hudson said.

The ordinance will be up for a final vote at the March 11 meeting.

Editor’s note: Update at 3:30 p.m Thursday to reflect that the ordinance received tentative approval instead of final approval.