Elizabethtown City Council members in May spent more than 10 hours in a span of three days discussing the 2019-20 fiscal year budget
On Monday, it only took them three minutes to unanimously approve and have the first reading for the ordinance adopting the $70.1 million plan, which includes a 4-percent wage increase for all 309 full-time city employees — more than $200,000.
When factoring in capital construction projects, the total budget grows to $74.9 million.
“Most importantly, we were able to take care of all of our city employees by giving them a 4-percent bump in this next budget cycle because they are worth it and we want to make sure that they know we think they are worth it,” Mayor Jeff Gregory said, noting the plan is also to “continue to retain the best for our citizens.”
The mayor and city council will receive a 1.5 percent increase based upon the consumer price index as provided by the ordinance.
Like last year, according to the mayor’s budget message from last week, the city again faced an increased required pension payment, totaling $531,000 in fiscal year 2019-20.
A total of $1.3 million will be allocated for construction projects along with outside engineering fees of nearly $200,000. The largest storm water project involves the dredging and rehabilitation of Buffalo Lake.
“I am excited about the infrastructure project we’ve got for Buffalo Lake. That is going to bode well for downtown,” Councilman Matt Deneen said following Monday’s meeting.
A total of $125,000 has been designated for downtown redevelopment, including property acquisitions, sidewalk improvements and other expenses.
The city’s fire department budget is set for $6 million with an estimated cost of $2.5 million to be used for work on the new Elizabethtown fire station No. 2, which will be covered by internal financing from the city’s sewer fund.
The city’s police department budget has been set at $7.4 million, which will include the purchase of six new patrol vehicles, along with personnel increases. The more than $1 million in expected revenues from alcohol regulatory and licensing fees will be used to cover the salaries and benefits of eight existing police officers, one new patrol car, the operation of the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Department and pay for community outreach efforts such as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
“I think that public safety is obviously a concern, always, and we feel like we gave them all the tools necessary to continue to be successful,” Gregory said. “We try to continue to add man power and make sure they are equipped if they need to be to be able to do their job safely.”
Among the other budget items is $500,000 to be used for the Public Works Department’s street paving, the budget message said. Combined with the Municipal Aid’s road fund, this money will cover $1 million in resurfacing projects, purchases and re-striping. Phase I of the new Public Works Facility was completed in 2018 and phase II will be completed in the first quarter of 2020 with completion expected in the 2021 fiscal year. The project will be paid for by the general, sewer and natural gas funds and no new long-term debt is proposed.
Restaurant and hotel tax revenues are estimated to be $3.4 million and $760,000, respectively, and will be turned over to the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau for disbursement to be included in the general fund. According to the budget message, restaurant tax monies will be used for debt service on the Elizabethtown Sports Park bond issues.
The city’s general fund will provide $500,000 to the Parks and Recreation Department to pay for five new tennis courts at Freeman Lake Park and $2.3 million will be used for renovations at Pritchard Community Center, which will be internally financed by the city’s sewer and natural gas fund.
“We packed a lot of good things in this year’s budget, that is for sure,” Deneen said.
Gregory described the council as diverse, stating they cover several different disciplines.
“We were able to get a lot of insight when we prepared the budget, which I thought paid off and was very beneficial. I am proud to say I think we covered all of our departments very well,” he said.
The budget will become official following a second reading later this month.