Morenci’s proposed budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year shows an increase in spending of only about two percent as city council works toward improving the financial status of city government.
“I have a feeling we’re recovering from our deficits,” said city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder, “but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Last year’s spending plan included staff cuts as council struggled to work its way out of the red. Savings in various areas could lead to rehiring one employee on a full-time basis.
The budget proposal calls for spending of $2,287,680—an increase of $47,000 from last year—but Schroeder pointed out this is just a proposal and additional adjustments must be made before the public presentation of the budget at Monday’s city council meeting.
The proposed police department budget would bring officer Frank Cordts back to full-time status and include the purchase of a new patrol car ($19,000).
The budget also includes buying two in-car laptop computers at a cost of $10,800, but a grant sought county-wide might cover part of this cost.
At the library, the director job will become a full-time position, but without benefits other than retirement. The budget calls for $60,000 from the city and $12,866 from the library’s savings.
A $500 expense for dog license software should pay for itself in the first year, Schroeder said. Currently city hall staff write about 300 licenses by hand every year. The new system would maintain all records in a computer and will tie into the county’s records.
Spending in the public works department includes no major equipment needs, however, a line striper will be bought for $2,000 rather than borrowing the equipment.
Water towers need periodic inspecting ($4,400), three park shelter houses need re-roofing ($9,300), the L-shaped parking lot east of city hall needs new pavement ($26,300) and the city’s portion of Weston Road needs paving ($10,500).
Morenci, Seneca and Medina are each considering a 10 percent increase in assessments for the Morenci Area EMS service. An annual increase of no more than 10 percent is permitted, but this would be the first increase since the service was organized.
The EMS advisory board is seeking computer upgrades ($5,000) and heart monitors ($5,000).
Discussion continues over proposed changes in the health insurance coverage for city employees. The co-pay for prescription drugs would increase from $30 to $50 for brand-name drugs and remain at $15 for generics. The change, if accepted by union members, would save an estimated $6,000 annually.
Three full-time employees have opted out of the city’s insurance plan due to coverage by a spouse. This saved the city more than $8,700 in the current year, Schroeder said, and this would likely increase as medical insurance costs continue to grow.
Schroeder noted that the Whitman Crossing apartment complex added about $15,000 to the city’s property tax revenue. Overall, property tax revenue across all classes is expected to increase by 2.3 percent, according to the city assessor.
Schroeder and other city officials throughout the state are awaiting the outcome of a State Senate vote May 13 on state revenue sharing. The House has already passed a proposed 4.0 percent increase.
County officials will meet with Sen. Cameron Brown next week to plead their case for the increase.
In one final note of positive news, Schroeder said the loan payment for the industrial park will be paid off this year, ending an annual expense of more than $53,000.