Several city departments underspent their budgets in 2020, giving the Seymour City Council an opportunity to use leftover funds to pay employee health insurance costs.
Council members voted to transfer a total of $249,408 from the planning and zoning, public transit, legal and police departments into the health insurance fund during a meeting last month.
Mayor Matt Nicholson said additional funding was needed to cover health insurance claims for 2020, but some of the transfers will give the city a cushion to start 2021.
By building up the city’s health insurance fund for the future, Nicholson hopes to not have to move around as much money at the end of this year.
He would like to have enough cash on hand to cover the city’s operational costs for up to six months or 180 days, he said. That would keep the city from having to borrow money from the sewer utility fund like it has done in the past.
Right now, the city has around 118 days worth of cash available, he said.
“In the past, I was told the problem was that the state allows municipalities to budget only so much for insurance,” Nicholson said. “With over $3.7 million in claims this year, we came in higher than what was budgeted.”
Some of the unspent funds in 2020 were a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the governor’s stay-at-home order in the spring, the city reduced its number of transit buses in operation. At one point, there were only two buses, half of the city’s fleet, on the road due to the decrease in ridership.
The move led to less of a need for drivers and fuel, saving the city $98,000 in the transit budget.
The Seymour Police Department was able to save $100,000 in its budget from restructuring early in 2020 and by keeping a close eye on overtime costs, Nicholson said.
The planning and zoning department contributed $31,409 from its city engineer payroll account and unsafe structure removal fund. Seymour does not have a full-time city engineer on payroll.
The remaining $20,000 came from the city attorney’s contractual services fund.
Councilman Seth Davidson said he didn’t want to see city departments lose funding because they hadn’t used it all during the year.
“I don’t want to punish the department heads for having extra money from being good stewards throughout the year,” he said.
Clerk-Treasurer Darrin Boas said the transfers do not impact the departments’ 2021 budgets.