Friday, May 4, 2012

City to save by paying off fire truck early; has fewer water customers because of vacant houses

By Alex Ruf
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

As it wrapped up preliminary public discussions about next year’s budget Wednesday, the Midway City Council agreed to pay off the city’s loan on the fire truck to save money. It also heard that water revenues are down because vacant houses mean fewer customers.

City Clerk-Treasurer Phyllis Hudson said paying off the loan will cost $48,376, which will save about $16,000 because the loan still has four annual payments of $16,126, adding up to $64,504. She said the payoff figure may vary because her projection was for May, and the council plans to pay off the truck on July 1. The council budgeted a maximum of $48,500 to pay off the loan.

“To be able to pay stuff off, I feel very good about it,” said Council Member Sharon Turner, the mayor pro tem.

One of the largest increases in the 2012 budget is for streets, with the addition of snow removal at an estimated $30,000. After Midway became a fourth-class city like Versailles last year, the county said it would have to be paid for its snow-removal services because it does not remove snow in Versailles. The deal between the city and county, however, does not cover every street in Midway. The city has been informally seeking bids to see who will do the rest of Midway. The one snow removal by the county last winter cost only $1,233, but Bozarth said the city has no idea what next winter will be like, so he budgeted $30,000 to be safe.

The proposed budget combines the previously separate lines for plants and Christmas lights. Council Member Charlann Wombles suggested this at the last meeting, so the combined category can cover decorations throughout the year, instead of just on Christmas.

The water budget projects a decline in sales from last year’s figure. Hudson said the number of water customers has decreased because of vacant homes in Midway. “There are at least 10 empty houses in Northridge alone,” Turner said.

Though there are fewer water customers, the city expects to pay more for water next year than this year because Kentucky American Water Co. has raised wholesale water rates to cover costs of its new Kentucky River plant and supply line. Water costs are budgeted at $285,000, up from $265,000.

Council Member Aaron Hamilton asked why the water meter upgrade project wasn’t being budgeted for the coming year. Bozarth said he gave the project a deadline of July 1, the start of the next fiscal year, so there is no reason to budget for it. The  project is adding electronics to meters, making them readable from the street. Bozarth and Hudson said 200 meters have been upgraded, with 500 more to go.

The council agreed to move the budget to its first formal reading as an ordinance, at Monday’s council meeting.

Wombles and Council Member Joy Arnold said the software for the council’s monthly financial reports produces a document that is confusing and hard to read. “The goal of government should be to be easy to understand,” Arnold said.

Bozarth said the monthly financial reports have “been an age-old discussion. . . . It’s not easy to understand at times. Turner and Wombles said they brought up the issue up six years ago, when they originally joined the council.

Bozarth agreed that something needs to be done about the system, but suggested that new software would be costly. “It takes 10 years to kind of get used to it,” he said.

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