Council restores annual budget with leaner timesSuperior’s City Council restored an annual budget cycle after taking a preliminary look at what’s ahead for city finances.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Superior’s City Council restored an annual budget cycle after taking a preliminary look at what’s ahead for city finances.
The goal is to allow flexibility with the budget as the city faces two very different financial pictures over the next two years and the state is plays a larger role in the local budgets.
After years of declining shared revenue and state-imposed levy limits, the city will get by with a balanced budget in 2014 that’s only $596,000 more than it was in 2008, and slightly less than 2011, before the state cut an additional $360,000 in shared revenue from the city.
However, a year from now, the council could be facing decisions to cut almost $1.3 million dollars if levy limits continue and shared revenue remains the same.
Buoying the city’s budget for 2014 is a federal SAFER grant that allowed the fire department to add six firefighters this year, three of which had been eliminated last year to balance the budget after firefighters negotiated wage increases to pay for retirement expenses for the Wisconsin Retirement System as budgets were cut to manage declining revenue. That grant goes away in 2015.
The detailed general fund budget for 2014 will be presented to the council Aug. 20.
“As we move through this, the 2014 budget will be fairly stable and uneventful,” said Mayor Bruce Hagen. In addition to levy limits and declining shared revenue, Hagen said the city will only receive half the cost of providing municipal services to state facilities.
“I think we’re doing a pretty good job handling the restrictions which we have no control over,” Hagen said.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns with the flat funding for the last five years. Concerns include attracting and retaining employees, unfunded and underfunded technology and equipment needs, money for demolition and contingency funds for unexpected expenses.
It’s the second year in a row the council will consider a budget without a contingency fund.
Hagen said Superior has been fortunate because the council, finance department and other city departments are doing a good job managing the tighter budgets, but the city has reduced staffing by 10 percent. He said that is having an effect on the city’s ability to respond to needs in the city.
The budget has increased an average of 0.37 percent annually over the last six years, said Finance Director Jean Vito.
She said the city is now trying to add things back into the budget that were cut with the idea that things would improve and the city would catch up. However, after six years of stagnant funding, Vito said, things like police and fire gear are necessary for the city to put back in the budget.
Vito said if the city had been allowed to increase its budget by the average consumer price index over the last six years, the city budget would be around $29 million today. However, with state-imposed restrictions, it remains around $27 million.