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Finance department prepares for fiscal year; City Manager says Roswell is ‘very strong financially’

Mayor Dennis Kintigh considers Councilor Caleb Grant's plan for assisting the city's budget preparations at upcoming finance committee meetings in June and July. City Clerk Sharon Coll keeps a record of the special city council meeting on Thursday evening. (Alison Penn Photo)

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The Roswell City Council on Thursday voted to adopt a preliminary budget for fiscal year 2018-2019, with an amendment.

The preliminary budget and amendment, which was needed to balance the preliminary budget, were passed unanimously, meeting the requirement of a supermajority vote — per the state Department of Finance and Administration — for their adoption.

Finance Director Monica Garcia explained the amendment to the council.

“On 2018/2019 to get the preliminary budget to balance, we basically need to ask for $2,917,000 to add to our general fund beginning cash balance,” Garcia said. “We had to do this last year as well.”

Garcia clarified that the $2,917,000 is from unspent funds. Councilor Barry Foster asked which accounts the funds will be taken out of, and Garcia said the amount will come from several accounts and line items.

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City Manager Joe Neeb said the process for determining the numbers for the preliminary budget required “movement and shifting.”

That was finished on Wednesday by the finance department. He said the budget was drafted keeping in mind council’s priorities of protecting reserves, implementing the compensation plan and maintaining and improving service levels.

Aiming for July 24 as the tentative date for consideration of the final budget, Neeb said city staff and the finance committee will continue to work over the next couple of months. There will be two finance committee meetings between now and the deadline, to answer questions and discuss the budget.

Neeb thanked the finance staff for their work and shared that the city’s budget will be adjusted to comply with state requirements.

Councilor Caleb Grant, chair of the Finance Committee, said he intends for the committee to dig into the details of the revenue and personnel sections of the budget at the June 7 meeting. He said the meeting in July will be moved because of the Fourth of July weekend and will cover prioritizing capital projects, revenue projections, personnel and capital projects — all discussed as priorities of the council.

“The point is we are required to have the final budget to DFA by July 31, 5 p.m. which would be a week later,” Mayor Dennis Kintigh said. “If we need to make any changes, we need to make sure that staff has an opportunity or time to get those changes made.”

Councilor Juan Oropesa asked Neeb and Garcia how well the city was doing financially on a scale of one to 10. Neeb, rather than rating it on a scale as requested by Oropesa, said the city was “very strong financially” as presented in the audit of the city and its bond issues.

“That implies to me that we have money available — if we need it,” Oropesa said. “With that said, I think there’s departments that need staff that I didn’t see on the budget awarded — and one department that I am talking about is the cemetery. They are working with about four or five individuals out there and they are there doing Saturday burials, so they can’t rotate personnel because they are bringing everybody in on a Saturday every single Saturday.

“I think that even though we want to have extra funds or infrastructure or what have you —the thing is that we’re not giving departments resources that they need to be able to do their job.”

Oropesa said the sanitation department recently hired four positions, which he said was positive, but said there are other departments that need more staff and funds.

Grant said the cemetery’s staffing needs were also apparent to him. He said the sanitation department has its own enterprise fund, but cemetery funds come from the general fund.

“My point is that if we have the money we should be willing to spend it and help the departments out that are needing help,” Oropesa continued. “It’s great to save up money. Obviously, everybody wants to save money but — and I understand infrastructure is a big deal that needs to be done — but I would hate to see for departments to suffer just because we’re concentrating on one area, and build money on this specific area and then not give the departments the resources that they need.”

Neeb said the city had the requests from the cemetery within the Parks and Recreation Department.

“The cemetery is high on our list,” Neeb said. “We believe that based upon their resource allocation there’s the potential need for about five positions based upon the work that is out there. We gave them two additional last year in order to take some of that pressure off and they are very thankful for that. We are working through that.”

Councilor Steve Henderson said he hopes for more discussion on the final budget. He said that the revenue and expenses are increasing, so the city needs to look for opportunities to increase revenue. Henderson said year-end cash for Fiscal Year 2018 was estimated to be $20,830,000, and the projected amount for Fiscal Year 2019 is $13,235,312 in the preliminary budget summary document.

“Unless I am reading this wrong and if I am please correct me, but our operating expenses are up 30 percent, our total expenses are up 25 percent, revenue is up 15 percent. So there is a discrepancy between our ability to fund the budget — but we’re in fact doing it out of our end-cash, so it’s just something we’ve got to deal with at some point,” Henderson said. “We can’t continue on this level without at some point running out of cash.”

Frank Montoya, with the city’s finance and budget department, said there needs to be more diligence and decision-making regarding purchases and approving projects to rebound from the trend the city is moving toward.

Neeb thanked the staff for trying to hold down costs throughout the past fiscal year.

“I always talked about with them that it was either I was going to take a machete to the budgets or a surgical knife,” Neeb said. “And I’d rather take a surgical knife and carve off some of the ends so that we don’t make a big shift within what they’re trying to do operationally.

“I believe we are there and so I believe we can balance this stuff out very well now — now that we have some numbers to work with and everything.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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