Prior to the Knox City Council meeting on Tuesday evening, City Clerk-Treasurers Jeff Houston met with a field representative with the Department of Local Government Finance in order to discuss the projected budget and budget calendar. Continue reading
Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston explained the reductions made to the budget to the council members.
“The circuit breaker credits equal $261,249.27,” said Houston. “That is 16.39 percent of the certified levy. The certified levy is the maximum amount of money that you can collect from property taxes. You’ll see the General Fund was cut 18.36 percent, and each one of them was cut about 18.36 percent other than our two debt funds, and they were cut .06 percent.”
Circuit breaker credits amount to less money coming into the city’s budget from the tax distribution. More money is required to be cut this year than last year.
Houston said that he went to each department head to ask them to reduce their budget by a certain percentage.
Now that the process is complete, a resolution to transfer funds was drafted. Houston said he checked with the Department of Local Government Finance, and the process he’s recommending includes putting money into a circuit breaker line item within a department’s budget.
“We still want to be able to get our maximum levy. We don’t want to do a budget reduction. We just want to move these appropriations down into an unappropriated area or circuit breaker area so that we don’t spend more money than we have coming in.”
Houston said about $261,000 is the circuit breaker, and that means the city council will need to watch all spending.
“It’s cutting it right to the bone. There’s no doubt about it. We’ll have to be very frugal. We have to do what we have to do.”
In addition to tax caps, the reduction of the assessed valuation of property can be attributed to some of the loss of tax money coming into the city.
The council members agreed that they have no other choice but to approve the resolution presented to them by Houston. The council approved the resolution for the transfer of funds with a unanimous vote.
Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston explained that caps have been placed on the amount of property taxes residents are required to pay which means less money into the city’s budget. Houston said $261,000 needs to be cut, and every department has made those cuts. Those cuts will be presented in a resolution tonight for the council’s approval.
Knox Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston gave the city council an update on the income and expenses at the girl scout cabin, the Nancy J. Dembowski Community Center and the Gateway property.
The Gateway gathers income from the Starke County Chamber of Commerce, Starke County Tourism Commission, Starke County Economic Development Foundation, and the city. The fund stayed in the black in 2014. The girl scout cabin revenue was less than $100 short of the fund balance.
Knox Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston informed the city council members last week that he sent 11 lien notices to the Starke County Treasurer’s office. He stated that those residents were behind in paying utility bills. Those liens will be collected when property taxes are collected in May.
Mayor Rick Chambers noted that he’s talked with John Julian with Umbaugh and Associates about doing an audit of the water department accounts. There are some properties that are not being billed properly. Mayor Chambers said he would talk more about the issues and bring a contract to the council for approval for Julian’s services. There was discussion about lowering the minimum amount of gallons billed and senior citizen discounts.
Umbaugh and Associates will be working on refinancing the water bonds after the first of the year.
Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston informed the Knox City Council members that John Julian said the markets should be better after the new year starts to ensure the city gets the best rate possible. Julian approached the council earlier this month to move forward with the process. The city has $1.5 million outstanding on bonds from 1988 and from 2006. Julian suggested that refinancing now could save the city up to $10,000 a year throughout the remainder of the life of the bond.
The council previously approved an ordinance to jump start the movement on the refinancing action. Houston said he should know more about the bond refinancing during the council’s second meeting in January.
Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston explained that the budget reflects a 2.44 percent increase in appropriations. He said he hopes that it comes within the maximum levy which is the maximum amount that can be raised through property taxes.
Houston said the council members will need to make cuts to the budget in 2015.
The city, along with all other taxing entities in Starke County, is part of a pilot program with the state this year. A meeting was held on Oct. 6 where a state analysis was reviewed. Houston said the county then provided the city with a non-binding recommendation. The city could face a huge cut in 2015.
Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston told the council members this week that the date was modified from its original calendar date due to an error in the publication. Houston said he notified the Department of Local Government Finance and they are aware of the change and approved it. The budget needed to be re-advertised for two weeks which has caused the delay in the public hearing.
The Knox City Council members will meet tonight at 7 p.m. CT at Knox City Hall.
The council will move forward with the 2015 budget calendar and discuss the 2015 budget tonight in a public session. Mayor Rick Chambers and Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston will have a report and members of the public are welcome to share comments during this meeting.
As promised, Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston provided the city council members with a total cost of what a three percent salary increase would look like. The cost came to $43,642 for all employees. Houston explained that the cost of living increase was determined to be 1.5 percent and a 6.5 increase in insurance is expected for next year. The proposed salary increase would likely cover those statistics.
Knox Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston told the city council last week that the budget was approved, but with the circuit breaker, they will be receiving $218,000 less so cuts will need to be made wherever possible.
Property tax caps are cutting funds available to the city and county. Houston noted that while the property owners are seeing relief in their taxes, it’s causing severe belt tightening at the local level which hurts services. There’s only a few ways the city can collect money by the city and raising taxes is not in the best interest of the council.
The Knox City Council members approved a transfer to help cover the cost of snow removal.
Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston told the city council that the street department did what they could, but they have gone over budget in the snow removal line item. The contractor that removes snow in the downtown area also worked harder this season and charged a little more.
With the cold weather comes frozen pipes, and many area residents are suffering from the inconvenience and expense of having no running water. However, many municipalities have offered residents a credit for letting their water run to prevent pipes from freezing.
The Knox City Council last night approved a number of fund transfers and encumbrances as they prepared for the end of the year. Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston told the council that this tidying-up of the books is necessary to ensure that all funds are in the black before the beginning of the new year.
The Knox City Council this week heard an update from Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston and Mayor Rick Chambers regarding insurance benefits for an injured fireman. Chambers said the fireman, Wayne Noah, was injured while investigating a fire when a change in pressure forced him off of the house floor and onto the ground, twisting an ankle and preventing him from working his full-time job.
Knox City Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston reported to city council this week that the revenue projection looks little lean when it comes to the budget.
Houston explained that $6,000 has been cut from EDIT fund and other places will be out money. However, the certified shares will get a boost of $2,000. The 1782 form has not yet come back from the state which will mandate where the city will need to cut from the 2014 budget.
Houston also told the council that 34 delinquent utility notices have been sent out. As a result, $3,926.83 has since been collected with $1,000 still outstanding.
The Knox Clerk-Treasurer’s Office may soon adopt a new work order module as an add-on to their existing Keystone accounting program. The program would be used to keep track of the history of utility customers, allowing the office to more easily generate and keep track of work orders. Currently, the office has forms that are used for work orders, filled out on paper, but are burdensome and problematic.
The Knox City Council this week adopted the resolution for the 2014 budget, having held the public hearing at the end of last month. Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston explained to the board that the city expects to see an increase in the overall budget of just under 3 percent; however, he said the city will likely have to make some cuts in order to capture the maximum amount of taxes the city has coming to it, but overall, the budget is in pretty good shape.
Knox City Council Attorney David Matsey is looking to draft a Memorandum of Understanding between the city council and the Starke County Commissioners regarding the jail water project.
The council thought that it should be spelled out what every party is responsible for, especially when it comes to payment of vouchers. One question that Clerk-Treasurer Jeff Houston had was how to pay the vouchers. Would the city need to pay up front and wait a possible 45 days for the county council or commissioners to approve the claims in order to reimburse the city?