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Council takes first look at 2015 budget

The City Council got its first look at the budget for the 2015 fiscal year during a Tuesday morning workshop.

“We have $26 million in new requests in a $28 million budget,” City Manager David Fraser said.

The general-fund budget reflected a 6.2 percent increase in revenue, with more income from taxes, charges for services and rental for the Copper Mountain 3 solar power plant.

Fraser said it was “painfully hard to balance” the general-fund budget and credited all the department managers for “taking one for the team” as they put in their wish lists for the coming year while being cognizant of budget constraints.

It did, however, allow for salary and benefit increases for city employees, as well as increases in day-to-day operating expenses.

According to Fraser and Finance Director Shirley Hughes, the budget submitted to the council featured only operating expenses. Capital improvements will be considered separately, using one-time funds received by the city to pay for the costs.

There were two requests for additional personnel: a $12,000 contract position for an Emergency Medical Services coordinator for the fire department and a $62,000 airport operations agent.

Kerry Ahern, airport manager, said the additional person is necessary to manage operations and flights at the facility. It will be crucial as the city works with the Federal Aviation Administration to get policies and procedures in place to become a base for unmanned aircraft systems testing.

Ahern told the council the position will be paid through the airport fund and not from the city’s general fund.

Additionally, Judge Victor Miller, who presides over the Municipal and Justice courts in Boulder City, asked to change his position from part time to full time. He said the need for the change was because of increased court demands and a recent state Supreme Court decision that requires greater autonomy and supervision of court employees.

That would equate to a $30,000 salary increase.

Miller also asked for the court’s marshal position to be reclassified from hourly to salary, similar to how the city’s animal control officer is paid. He said the approximately $16,000 increase in salary would be basically cut in half because the court would pay half of the salary.

He cited how the marshal has been instrumental in collecting outstanding warrants, netting about $800,000 last year. This compares with the $22,000 loss in operating costs when the police department tried to collect money due to the court.

Miller told the council members the changes in salary would be negligible because the court has been able to return money to the general fund each year.

The area of most concern for the council was the utility fund, which is projected to have a $767,329 deficit. It reflected a 1.5 percent decrease in revenue despite 15.4 percent increase in sales tax.

To balance the fund, Hughes and Fraser are recommending a change to the city’s resolution regarding water rates that would allow infrastructure surcharges from the Southern Nevada Water Authority to be passed on to Boulder City customers.

Also proposed is a decrease in the amount transferred to reserve accounts.

“The purpose of this meeting is to look at the budget and give input on areas where we need to take a closer look,” Fraser said.

Each of the council members commented on the budget, asking about issues where they needed more clarification. To that end, they instructed Fraser and Hughes to provide:

n a prioritized list of capital improvements

n statistics from the court about the number of cases it handles each year

n information on the status of a $500,000 grant for solar projects

n information about water rates and surcharges from Southern Nevada Water Authority

n a copy of the contract with Senior Center Boulder City

n copies of contracts with outside attorneys for professional services

n an accurate statement of revenue and expenses for the Safekey program

n a statement how the budget takes the city’s strategic plan into consideration

n a list of costs and duties related to airport operations and comparisons with airports that have similar activity

n information on how wages are set for part-time employees

n information about the Interstate 11 impact survey

n reconsidered travel and training expenses for the City Council.

Just as Americans face the looming April 15 deadline to file their taxes with the Internal Revenue Service, the state mandates that a tentative budget be submitted to the Taxation Department by that day, with the final budget approved by May 21.

The preliminary budget is scheduled to be presented to council members April 8.

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