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City approves budget for new fiscal year

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Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh looks over charts that show the city’s expenses, as percentages, for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. From left, city councilors Barry Foster and Steve Henderson are also pictured at the Roswell City Council special meeting on Thursday evening. (Alison Penn Photo)

Roebuck withdraws motion to allocate funding for mountain lion exhibit

A $130,020,047 budget was approved by the Roswell City Council, with no changes made, during a one-hour meeting on Thursday.

Within a letter to Mayor Dennis Kintigh and the 10 city councilors, City Manager Joe Neeb included a pie chart showing that 35% of the $130 million budget is for personnel, 33% is for operating expense and 32% is for capital expense. Estimated revenue garnered from city services was listed at $91 million.

Nine out 10 councilors were present for the special meeting on Thursday night with City Councilor Juan Oropesa absent. Neeb said he approved of the direction the city was headed in, in terms of providing services, and the budget had room for adjustments over the next year.

With Kintigh requesting roll-call votes, three resolutions were voted on separately to show the council’s approval of the final quarter financial report, final budget worksheet and final budget. All three are slated to be submitted to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration no later than Wednesday.

2020 budget 

Saying every available penny had been budgeted, City Manager Joe Neeb presented the balanced budget for fiscal year 2019-2020, or FY 20, and walked through the final budget booklet with 10 sections, including reports and other documents. The city’s FY 19 ended June 30 and FY 20 began on July 1.

City Council approved a preliminary budget in May and it was submitted to DFA by June 1.

Neeb said staff began preparing for the FY 20 budget almost a year ago, and having information ahead of time for the council would become the “new norm.”

“Next year it will even go smoother because we’re going to be talking a lot more about the service models, a lot more about what we’re spending on rather than really crunching numbers,” Neeb said.

Neeb reminded the council that the city is going into the new fiscal year with fee schedules for the rec center, library and museum and would continue to see “creative and alternative means of revenue generation.”

Of the budgeting process, Councilor Jacob Roebuck said the city is undergoing a technical transition with the new Tyler software system and a philosophical transition with the hope that the city will examine for the next budget why they spend money in certain ways.

Councilor Caleb Grant and some of the other councilors thanked the staff for their work over the year in transitioning from using excel spreadsheets to the new financial software. Grant drew attention to the investment in city personnel with the compensation plan.

Councilor Steve Henderson touched on the topic of internet sales tax, where the state will be paying various amounts to municipalities for what they have collected. Need said this amount was not included in the budget, but will be when the official number comes from the state.

Kintigh said in addition to the payment for internet sales tax he anticipated the city would be “allocating resources that we hadn’t anticipated” and referred to changes in funding for streets from the Legislature.

Zoo motion 

Roebuck made a motion to give Spring River Park & Zoo $200,000 for the mountain lion exhibit, as a source of motivation to finish the project, in addition to the $206,341.60 already raised in donations. He explained the $200,000 would come from general fund cash of $1,557,460, to complete the project.

Neeb clarified the city is moving away from calling it the interim mountain lion exhibit, since it will be a permanent part of the zoo to hold a carnivorous animal.

Roebuck said the zoo staff has been working and this money would be a vote of confidence to finish the project. However, Roebuck said if the zoo was not making sufficient progress he would make the motion to close the zoo, if needed, in the future.

“I vacillate about the zoo a lot … There are moments where I think we should just close it down and there are moments where I really want to save it …” Roebuck said. He added that the zoo costs the city around $800,000 annually and it has been questioned whether or not a city the size of Roswell can properly support a zoo.

Though Roebuck said the zoo staff is working hard, he said they were also struggling and used the installation of the coyote fence as an example. He said the fencing was installed earlier this year, but no solution has been found to allow children to see the animals under or through the fencing.

Neeb said Kevin Dillon, facilities and maintenance director, drafted a proposal for a total cost of the large cat enclosure at $390,000 or $400,000 — instead of the $1.1 million estimated in the $36 million zoo master plan approved last March.

Grant seconded Roebuck’s motion for “discussion purposes,” but said he would rather do a budget amendment once Dillon’s plan and the subsequent dollar amount is finalized. Foster and Stubbs also wanted to be cautious in allocating the $200,000 at this time, without the finalized plan.

In agreement with Grant, Councilor Jeanine Corn Best said she sees the zoo as a separate business that doesn’t generate income and that there hasn’t been any urgency from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) on the expansion. She did not agree with “throwing money down the drain” at an inappropriate time, or when general funds are needed for the police and fire departments.

After discussion, Roebuck and Grant withdrew their motion and second.

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