YORK – A number of options were explored this past week, regarding the city’s finances and ways a half-million gap between expenses and revenues can be filled so the council can pass a balanced budget.
Mayor Barry Redfern started the budget conversation back in April and said he plans to have ongoing meetings until this fall when it comes time for formal adoption.
“We don’t want any surprises this year, we want to look at all the options, have good discussions, so good sound decisions can be made with all the information we have,” Redfern said.
“Tonight, this is just an overview of what can be explored,” York City Administrator Joe Frei told the council members. “We will need input from you on what you want to do as we move forward.”
When it comes to insurance, Pellie Thomas (the city’s treasurer) said the city has funded insurance with the assumption of maximum costs – there is a proposition to fund the insurance at expected costs instead. It was also noted that by funding at the assumption of maximum costs, reserves were created and that practice actually helped the city.
It was noted that the city’s insurance cost is expected to increase by about 10 percent – Redfern said the money saved over the past years could now help the city deal with that potential increase.
Another proposal is transferring about $194,000 from the land acquisition fund (which is normally held for purchasing land to hold for future economic development projects) to the general fund.
And yet another is to use about $187,000 from the aviation reserves, in order to fund capital projects. It was noted that the projected reserves in the aviation fund, for 2020, would be about $235,000.
“This is not a long-term solution, but in a year where we are trying to do catch-up with capital projects, this is just one proposal,” Frei said.
“It would help with this year, in catching up with what happened last year,” Redfern said, referring to the fact no capital improvement projects, at all, took place last year.
There was some conversation about outsourcing the concessions at the ballpark complex – the administration at first felt the labor costs were eating up the profits, but the numbers now coming in because of the high usage of the complex are promising. This is a fluid conversation, they noted, because this is high traffic season for that facility and the final numbers won’t be available for a time. It was also noted that Cheree Folts, the parks and rec director, remains on board with the city running the concessions there because the influx of money continues to grow.
It was noted that the city’s costs for the combined emergency communications center will be about $29,000 more this year than last – but that is because of equipment purchases that had to be made as the combined effort is in the early stages of getting off the ground.
“The hope is that we could pick up another county (to join the interlocal effort) which could really slow down future increases and expenses,” Mayor Redfern said, stressing that the combined communications center is being set up to handle more than just the city and county jurisdictions.
It was also stressed that savings have already been seen by the city because the equipment upgrades could be shared with the county in this scenario – rather than each entity having to make those investments on their own.
It was also noted that the city and the county are looking at a new contract for ambulance service – the new one calls for a $35,000 increase in payment from the county to the city each year for three years to be followed by a percentage of increase each year after that.
“We found we were behind in what we were billing the county,” Redfern explained.
“The billing amount sat flat for years and it wasn’t increasing enough,” added York Fire Chief Mike Lloyd.
Regarding the options presented, Redfern reiterated that “these, again, are just options to consider.”
Editor’s note: More coverage from this budget workshop will be in the Tuesday publication of the York News-Times.