Tuesday, April 19, 2011

City council discusses 2011-12 budget proposal; mayor delays public release

By Clark Brooks
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Midway City Council discussed Mayor Tom Bozarth’s proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year in an open workshop Monday night but largely in terms of percentage increases or decreases in specific items, not specific dollar figures.

Only the council members and Bozarth had copies of the proposal. The Midway Messenger asked for a copy of the proposed budget immediately after the meeting, but Bozarth required the Messenger to file an open-records request, to which the city has three days to respond. The Messenger obtained a copy of the proposal after the meeting from Council Member Becky Moore, who has said materials provided to council members before meetings should be provided to reporters covering the meetings. (Update: The city responded to the open-records request Wednesday morning.)

Bozarth began the discussion by noting percentage changes in some line items, such as a projected 29 percent increase in net profits taxes from last year. That number reflects an increase to $7,000 from $5,000, and the $2,000 difference is only two-tenths of 1 percent of the general, non-utility budget of $931,428, which is about the same as last year.

Bozarth attributed the increase to “better insight from auditors” and a small growth in local businesses. He said revenue from business license fees is projected to rise 45 percent, largely because the council recently increased the fees, and occupational taxes are expected to go up 14 percent. He said the latter increase stems from more jobs at Midway College.

On the spending side of the ledger, the budget estimates that the city will pay $21,199 less in Social Security taxes, which Bozarth attributed to the recent tax-cut deal between President Obama and congressional Republicans. The largest single increase in the draft budget would boost street maintenance by more than three-fifths, to $24,525 from $15,000 in the current budget.

With the city’s current budget coming to an end at the conclusion of the 2010-11 fiscal year on June 30, the budget is in its preliminary stages. “At this point, nothing in the budget is set in stone,” Bozarth said. “We still have to tinker around with the proposed budget over the next few city council meetings.”

The council received a budget request from the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce to help maintain the chamber website that promotes tourism.

Chamber representative Tami Vater said there has been a lot of interest in Midway businesses, according to the website’s traffic, and requested an unspecified amount to help cover the site’s $3,500 yearly expense. “Nearly a fourth of all web traffic the site had in March was solely because of Midway’s businesses,” she said. “This website helps with communication and allows the chamber to be ambassadors not only for Midway, but also Woodford County as a whole.”

Vater also mentioned the Chamber is developing Facebook and Twitter accounts, and potentially a blog, to help with communication at no cost to the community. “The chamber is trying to get more in sync with tech-savvy consumers,” she said. “Communication is key to promote this area’s businesses and tourism potential.”

There was a brief discussion about the need for a small banquet hall in Midway, and Vater said that a hotel feasibility study is currently in progress to see if Midway is a desirable location for a overnight accommodations.

Monday’s meeting included an update from Midway’s Water and Wastewater Task Force. The report said the current water-main flushing program showed that pipes in some parts of town are worse off than others. For example, pipes on the north side had more rust.

The task force is considering the need for the city to replace its water and sewage lines, perhaps by selling the system. Meanwhile, Bozarth said, Midway will apply for a rural development grant for the work.

“This is a process that is going to take awhile into the fall,” he said. “But, this doesn’t mean the city will make a switch in our water provider.”

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