Newport plans for $600K budget surplusNewport’s proposed 2013 budget projects a nearly $600,000 surplus that officials say will help build the small city’s fund balance, reduce its reliance on increasingly unstable state aid dollars and help it put money aside for future projects.
Newport’s proposed 2013 budget projects a nearly $600,000 surplus that officials say will help build the small city’s fund balance, reduce its reliance on increasingly unstable state aid dollars and help it put money aside for future projects.
The proposed $2.4 million budget holds the city’s property tax levy at $2.3 million and projects revenues to surpass $3 million. City Administrator Brian Anderson says the ensuing surplus is earmarked for the city’s fund reserve. It also will help build up an economic development fund that Anderson said will give Newport more flexibility in coming years to assist redevelopment efforts along Hastings Avenue and around a commuter bus transit center to open next year on Maxwell Avenue, and to continue a program of purchasing flood-prone properties near the Mississippi River.
“I think it’s important to have a healthy fund balance in there to be able to weigh your options,” Anderson said in an interview.
City staff’s budget is subject to City Council approval. The council will set a preliminary property tax levy on Sept. 6 and vote on a final 2013 budget in December.
Under the proposed budget, property taxes on the average Newport home would rise by $70 over 2012, Anderson said, because of a continued decline in value of the city’s housing stock.
Surprisingly, perhaps, Newport’s proposed surplus — the second straight year the city would take in comfortably more than it spends — would be achieved without any significant cuts. Rather, savings are realized from the early retirement package offered last year to the city’s longtime clerk; a shift of one public works employee’s salary and benefits to the city’s sewer and water fund; and the denial of a cost of living increase to city employees this year.
“I think all the cutting has been done, I guess,” Anderson said. “We have the staff I think we need to have. If you cut too much then the staff you have don’t have the tools and resources to do the job adequately.”
Financial planThe budget Anderson proposed last week is part of the city’s 10-year financial plan, a new step for the city that he said will make it easier to plan for large future expenditures and other budget issues.
In the past, Newport has had various three- to five-year plans in place, Anderson said. But the new financial management plan, put together with assistance from municipal finance consultants Ehlers and Associates, goes further than that, he said.
The plan “lays the framework and provides a foundation for what’s coming up,” Anderson said. “If you want a new city hall, this is what it will cost this is how we fit it in the budget.”
Planning longer-term for expenditures — like a $2.7 million placeholder in 2015 that Anderson said could go toward projects like a new Newport City Hall or major investment in redevelopment along Hastings Avenue — will help the city eliminate major swings in property tax levels for residents.
“We have something now that we can work off [and] future councils can work off,” said council member Tracy Rahm.