Posted 9/13/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
The Tioga Commission approved a 2017 preliminary budget last week, which will bring spending in line with expected revenues for the coming year.
“Tioga has benefited quite a bit from the oil and gas money and the sales tax money in the past five years. That’s not going to be the case in 2017,” said Karla Harmel, financial analyst with AE2S, the firm hired to develop the budget.
Back to reality
In Aug. 2014 the city brought in $406,000 in oil and gas revenues. That fell to $344,000 in Aug. 2015, and this past August the city brought in $241,000.
Sales tax took a major hit. In Aug. 2015, the city brought in $445,000. The same month this year, the city generated $120,000. The previous July sales tax revenue was only $50,000. In July 2015, the figure was eight times as high.
“That’s the reality of what you have to deal with,” Harmel told the commission.
The estimated property tax revenue based on a proposed mill levy of 24.55 will slightly increase residents’ taxes.
Harmel estimated a Tioga resident with a $300,000 house would pay an additional $30 next year.
Harmel noted property taxes were cut in half in 2013. At the time, the city was supported by high sales tax and oil revenues, so it was able to give property taxpayers a break.
“I don’t imagine anyone patted you on the back for that, but now we need to build that back up,” Harmel said.
The suggested general fund budget expenditures for 2017 are $1,322,145, which is $6,090 less than last year’s budget and $1.1 million less than actual expenditures for 2015.
Across all departments, the city will be using more comp time in the coming year to reduce the overtime costs.
The proposed preliminary budget saw some differences between what departments requested and what the commission ultimately voted on.
The police department requested $1.7 million but the preliminary budget plans for $559,025 in the coming year.
The auditor’s office requested $249,800 and the preliminary budget appropriates $208,050.
The streets department requested $935,100 but will receive $235,300.
Streets Commissioner Heather Weflen expressed concern over the figure, saying it doesn’t appropriate any funds for asphalt repair and chemical supplies.
Weflen and the department had requested $50,000 for asphalt repairs and $40,000 for the chemicals, which includes deicing fluids.
With these zeroed out, she said, a bad snowstorm could hurt the city’s ability to deal with ice.
The commissioners countered the preliminary budget is not a final budget and can be adjusted throughout the year.
Harmel said it’s typical of small towns to do so in order to accommodate unforeseen events like street repairs or snowstorm responses.
“If there’s a snowstorm, of course snow is going to get removed,” said Commissioner Tim Sundhagen.
The final budget’s total cannot exceed the preliminary budget’s total. However, money can be moved around throughout the year.
“We can jockey numbers inside the budget as much as we need to,” said Mayor Drake McClelland.
The commission agreed to adjust the streets budget to $300,000.
Harmel said it will have to come from the oil and gas revenues, as it’s the only place the city has any money to make the adjustment.
The commission must develop and adopt a final budget by October.