Friday, April 15, 2016

Council likes budget emphasis on streets and sidewalks, but questions details; water rate hike likely

By Anyssa Roberts
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway’s streets and sidewalks will be the city’s priority for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the City Council agreed at its first budget workshop on Wednesday.

Other potential budget increases include the parks budget, maintenance of City Hall and improvements in the city’s computer system.

The biggest question mark in the budget is the city’s water costs, which will affect water costs for citizens, depending on what sort of rate increase Kentucky American Water Co. wins from the state Public Service Commission.

Streets and sidewalks have been a topic of discussion among city officials for several months now, and because of the city’s surplus funds, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift made plans to increase their budget.

The city’s overall budget has about $143,000 more resources than last year's mainly because of higher revenue from occupational taxes, due to higher employment in the city. The occupational tax income in 2016-17 is expected to be $400,000; in the last budget it was $275,000 but the city has already far exceeded that figure.

In March, Vandergrift said he would set aside money to repave Northside Drive, the road that runs from the Midway Grocery up to Northside Elementary School. He said that the job should cost about $60,000 although he planned to set aside more.

“We need to make some progress this year,” Vandergrift told the council. In his proposed budget, $80,000 was budgeted for repaving. Last year’s street paving budget was $7,790.

Council Member Bruce Southworth asked if there was any money available to fix Stephens Street as well. “It’s been a long time since it’s been paved,” he said.

Vandergrift replied that he would like to do both if there is enough money available, but Northside is a priority.

Council Member Libby Warfield asked if only part of Stephens could be paved. That is a possibility, Vandergrift said, but the county and the city have been arguing over who’s responsible for Stephens Street, which connects Spring Station Road on the west with Weisenberger Mill Road on the east.

Sidewalks are likely to be repaired in the coming year too, as council members tentatively agreed on a budget of $27,000, up from $10,000 last year.

Vandergrift said that he had $40,000 originally set aside for the sidewalk budget but had to move money to other parts.

He added $10,000 to the parks budget, for improvements to Walter Bradley Park.

Under the mayor’s proposal, the City Hall maintenance budget would increase to $30,000 from $20,000 for repairs. Because the building is an older historic building, it takes special treatment for its repairs, Vandergrift explained.

Vandergrift also proposed budgeting $15,000 for computer services, up from $10,000 last year. Warfield asked about the increase, which the mayor explained as the cost of protecting important information to the city. He said recent database hacks have made these kinds of precautions necessary. The cemetery computer services budget would increase from $500 to $2,750.

The budget forecasts that the city’s payments for water will increase to $392,356, from $315,000. This would increase charges for residents, if the city continues its policy that the water system must pay for itself.

The council dismissed after discussing all parts of the budget for more than an hour. Council members decided to wait to schedule another budget workshop. Vandergrift hopes to have a first reading by May 2. The budget must be passed by June 30.  

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