City prepares to pass new budget

Donelle Pardee Whiting

The Washington City Council  plans to vote on a new budget for FY 2008-09 at it next regular Monday night.

Residents had the opportunity to discuss the proposed budget with city council members at a public hearing April 14 in the Senior Citizen Room at Five Points Washington.

City administrator Bob Morris said there are two major parts to the FY 2008-09 budget, operations and capital.

The largest operations expense comes from personnel, Morris said.

Although the only current change in staffing will be the addition of a new police officer, the new budget calls for a routine wage increase of 3.8 percent.

In addition, health and pension benefits will also see an increase.

Morris said funding retiree health benefits is much like funding a pension.

The city also anticipates a 20 percent increase in health insurance.

Other large operations expenditures for the city are in energy and fuel costs, Morris said.

In FY 2005-06, the city paid $104,000 for gas and diesel fuel.

For FY 2008-09, the city expects to pay about $190,000.

Other large energy expenses come from electricity needed for street lighting and the water and sewer plants.

In 2005-06, street lighting was $38,000. Morris said the budget calls for street lighting expenditures to increase to $77,500.

Costs of running the water plants increased to $165,000 from $100,000 in 2005-06.

Morris said it would be higher if the city had not switched to an independent electricity supplier because of recent AmerenCILCO rate increases.

Although the city buys its electricity elsewhere, it pays AmerenCILCO distribution fees.

The city also expects an $88,000 increase to run the sewer plants.

Although electricity cost is not the only issue resulting in the increase, it is the largest reason, Morris said.

He added that between now and January 2009, he will recommend a water/sewer rate increase.

“I can’t tell how much the increase will be until I have all the necessary figures.”

However, he said, residents will not be hit with one large increase. “It will be phased in over time.”

For capital expenditures, the city workers are preparing to start major reconstruction of Muller Road and construction of Westgate from Devonshire to Wilmor.

Community growth is helping with capital improvement projects, but the major source of revenue comes from the motor fuel tax, Morris said.

Because the cost has doubled for asphalt, other streets in need of work will be sealcoated as needed until funding is in place to redo them.

The seatcoat allows the city to preserve the roads longer, Morris said.

Despite increases in energy and asphalt costs, Morris said he expects the 2008-09 budget to be balanced.

“The city’s overall financial picture is good.”