Friday, May 24, 2019

Mayor's budget has 5% raise for city workers, $50,000 for curb extensions; council starts making changes

The Midway City Council has begun what Mayor Grayson Vandegrift called its "number-one legislative function," preparing the city's budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The mayor led the council's first budget workshop, Thursday evening. The second workshop is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. Under state law, a mayor proposes a budget for revision and approval by the council. The workshops are open to the public, just like any other meeting of a quorum of the council, are streamed on the Midway Government Meetings page on Facebook.

Vandegrift said his proposal is "by far the heaviest-spending budget" of the five he has proposed, "reflecting our improved position and our desire to invest in infrastructure."

The proposed budget anticipates revenue of $1,847,813 and a surplus of $446,743, or 24 percent of revenue. The city's position is improved because it is collecting much more occupational tax, mainly due to payrolls in the Midway Station industrial park.

The current budget anticipated $550,000 in occupational tax, but the city collected more than that in the first nine months of the fiscal year, about $623,000, Vandegrift said. His proposal anticipates occupational-tax revenue in the next fiscal year of $650,000, which he called "very conservative." Last year he proposed, and the council approved, a 25 percent cut in property-tax rates.

The other big percentage jump in expected revenue is from alcohol license fees, which are budgeted at $5,000 for the current year and $8,000 for the coming year, apparently due mainly to the success of The Brown Barrel and Blind Harry's, the restaurant-bar combination on North Gratz Street.

On the expense side, Vandegrift said he wants a 5 percent pay raise for city employees instead of the usual 3 percent, because the city has the money and "Our employees do such a good job."

An example of bulb-outs, or curb extensions
The mayor proposes spending $50,000 for bulb-outs, or curb extensions, that would shorten pedestrian crossings of Winter Street and intersecting streets, and narrow Winter at angles to discourage speeding. Vandergrift has said the bulb-outs could be landscaped to “beautify the city.”

The budget also calls for $5,000 for new City Hall computers, $10,000 for repairs at the fire department (up from the current $5,000) and an extra $11,058 to the county Planning and Zoning Commission for use of its geographic information system, which Vandegrift said would help the city keep better track of the water and sewer system, especially after long-serving employees retire.

The council had questions about the information system, which Vandegrift said he would try to get answered at the next workshop. He said he has another motive for the move. Based on population, the city has one of the nine commission members, and the mayor said he would like it to have an additional member, but "I don't think we can get there unless we put our money where our mouth is." 

In a similar vein, he defended a proposed $1,000 contribution to the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, up from the current $500. Some on the council don't think the chamber does much if anything for Midway, but Vandegrift said refusing to help it "would send the message that Midway is isolationist."

The chamber has provided support for the county Tourism Commission, which Midway gave $1,000 last year. Vandegrift said he included no money for the commission in the proposed budget because the agency is now collecting lodging taxes from the county's first hotel, in Versailles.

The council agreed to give $5,000 to the Court Appointed Special Advocate program, which helps children involved in court proceedings. It recently expanded to the county but needs more funding to meet state requirements for supervision of volunteers. Vandegrift said his proposed appropriation of $3,350 was based on the city's difference in population with Versailles, which is giving the program $20,000. The Lexington-based program is also hoping for funds from Woodford County.

The second biggest new line item among expenses, $40,000 for interest on the mortgage on Midway Station, is expected to be only temporary. Vandegrift said he expects the Woodford County Economic Development Authority to repay the city with proceeds from land sales by the fall.

The council has three new members who are working on their first budget: John Holloway, Logan Nancy and Stacy Thurman. Holloway was the most talkative, mainly because he is also the unpaid manager of Walter Bradley Park, which has received a $10,000 grant for a performance stage. The proposed budget has an additional $12,500 for park improvements, down from $17,000 in the current fiscal year.

The stage project has become more complicated; Holloway estimated its total cost at $19,750. He said spending $9,750 of taxpayer money on it would leave enough for invasive-species control at the park, but made clear that he could take or leave the stage project. "I've been trying to get out of the entertainment business," he said, alluding to his work as head of the Lexington stagehands local.

Looking at the cemetery budget, the council discussed stretching construction of a long-planned pavilion over two fiscal years to facilitate repairs and improvements at the two historically African American cemeteries for which the city has taken responsibility. "This is going to be a giant undertaking," Holloway said.

Former council member Johnny Wilson, who brought the condition of the two cemeteries to the council's attention and donated more than $1,000 toward repairs, attended the workshop and said he was satisfied with the budget. "It's a start," he said.

No comments: