Details of Shields’ Budget Reflect Focus on Economic Development

Among the important signposts in the $69 million Fiscal Year 2013 budget recommended by City Manager Wyatt Shields, revealed to the City Council last Monday night, is the robust rebound in commercial real estate assessed values, leading an overall rise in property values by five percent for the year.

It marked the first increase since 2008 and sharp contractions in values, totalling double digits, in the last two years.

But the increase in assessed values, overall, mean that with no tax rate increase (currently at $1.27 per $100 of assessed valuation), tax bills that City property owners will have to pay will be the highest ever, having topped $7,000 on average in the current fiscal year.

On the expenditure side, Shields proposes adding two full time positions to the Planning and Economic Development office at City Hall to, he said, “set the stage for new commercial revitalization” that appears to be coming over the horizon.

Similar concerns account for the addition of a part-time fire marshal, and a facilities manager to increase capacity in contract management for the City’s 11 buildings, and instituting employee training to levels not attained since 2006.

The net growth of three full-time equivalent positions would bring the City’s work force to 182, still far below the range between 199 and 206 that the City had from 2004 to 2010.
Regular employee salaries, even with the small boost recommended for the coming fiscal year, will remain 1.8 percent below their levels of 2009, while employee contributions to health and pension funds have risen sharply.

A 10 percent increase in City pension contributions in the coming year is still smaller than elsewhere, Shields pointed out.

This contrast to salary increases ranging from above 10 percent to over four percent proposed for surrounding jurisdictions in the coming year.

The budget includes another $1.1 million toward restoration of the City’s fund balance, attaining the “policy target” for fund balance of 17 percent of annual expenditures. That means that the City will keep over $12 million in the bank for contingencies, at the top end of the policy range of between 12 and 17 percent of annual expenditures.

The budget includes a five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) totalling $50.2 million, including $15.6 million in the coming year, almost all funded by grants and bonding (only $731,327 in “pay as you go” dollars).