The Powell City Council planned the city’s finances for the coming fiscal year at its annual budget work session last week. The upcoming budget, which the council will vote on in June, appropriates $8,179,044 from the general fund for operations and capital improvement spending.
The draft budget has another $15,830,955 in expenditures from its enterprise funds. These are the costs of providing utilities — trash, internet, electricity, water and sewer — which are supported by charges for those services.
Overall, the fiscal year 2022 budget was a decrease of about $300,000 over last year’s budget.
Despite the 2020 pandemic, which temporarily shut down some businesses, an anticipated 15% drop in sales tax collections didn’t materialize. City Administrator Zack Thorington said that, as of the third quarter, revenues were on par with the past few years.
Further, despite revenue challenges at the state level, Thorington said discussions with Wyoming legislators indicate that the state’s biennial appropriation of $105 million for local governments appears secure; Powell receives about $500,000 every year from that appropriation.
The city’s reserves by June 30 are projected to be $4.5 million, which puts the city $1 million over the $3.5 million needed to operate for six months without any revenues, as required by city policy.
Many department budgets were increased by a few percentage points over the last fiscal year, mostly due to increases in personnel costs. This includes increased contributions required by the Wyoming Retirement System for employee pensions.
Last year, amid the financial uncertainty created by the pandemic, city employees’ merit-based raises were suspended. With the city’s budget situation in better shape than expected, Thorington requested those raises be reinstated in fiscal year 2022.
Some savings will come from two positions that aren’t being filled.
The city also updated its capital improvement plan, which outlines capital projects and equipment purchases that are needed for the next five fiscal years. The plan is dynamic, meaning it’s updated regularly as priorities change, projects get deferred and new projects are added.
The city’s budget is the priority over the capital improvement plan, so the plan acts as guidance rather than commitment.
The city identified 88 projects in the next five years, estimated to cost nearly $12 million. Of that, enterprise funds would cover $7.3 million of the projects, with another $1.3 million already funded by sources outside the city — such as a $1.2 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for taxiway improvements at the Powell Municipal Airport.
The total amount of capital projects planned to come from the general fund over the next five years is $3.4 million, which is an increase of $1 million over last year’s plan. Much of that increase is due to a $800,000 replacement of the HVAC system at the Powell Aquatic Center, including the rooftop unit and ductwork.
The pool project is at the top of the city’s priorities in the plan, and the expenditure is planned for the coming fiscal year. The replacement caused the department’s overall budget to jump about 200%.
The system is 11 years old, but the chemicals used in the pools are highly corrosive.
“Pools start eating themselves the day they go online because of the chlorine,” Thorington said.
The engineers are looking into replacing the system with one that works in Powell’s dry air and can last longer. The current plan is to replace the system next spring during the center’s annual shutdown, and it also includes replacing interior doors.
The next top priority for the city is the rebuild of the Vining Substation, which caught fire in the summer of 2019. The $2.9 million renovation project will require $1 million of additional funding in the coming fiscal year, drawn from the city’s electrical enterprise fund. The State Loan and Investment Board provided Powell with a $1.5 million low-interest loan for the project last June.
Among the other general fund expenditures for the coming fiscal year is a $53,500 Bobcat Toolcat for the Parks Department. The equipment is used on the skating rink, for snow removal, and work on the city ballparks. The city has an older one that Parks Superintendent Tim Miller said is “desperately in need of repairs.”
The city is also spending $82,000 on the Homesteader Park irrigation system. It’s one phase of the project, with the second phase planned for fiscal year 2022 to 2023, which is estimated to cost another $70,000.
The city will also purchase a $70,000 rubber tire roller for the Streets Department this coming fiscal year, which will come from the general fund.
General fund expenditures for capital improvement in the coming fiscal year will also include a new patrol car. Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt said the department aims to replace one patrol car per year.