Tap reserves, suggests Council auditor

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  • | 12:00 p.m. September 2, 2003
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by Bradley Parsons

Staff Writer

The City Council auditor is recommending that a reserve account be drained to pay for improved Fire and Rescue equipment, two new tax collector positions and pay for part-time hours among other things.

In his recommendations to the Finance Committee, Richard Wallace urged the Council to use the $17.4 million account to pay for a laundry list of City expenses that were to be funded by Mayor John Peyton’s proposed investment and borrowing strategies. Peyton had urged the Council to approve the changes in concert with his budget. However, Finance chair Warren Alvarez said last week the Council will likely need more time to evaluate the changes, leaving the City with a near $15 million gap in its budget. The Council could now use the Budget Stabilization Reserve to fill that gap.

The Finance Committee will devote the majority of today’s meeting to Peyton’s financial strategies and the use of the account. In his original budget — submitted for Council approval in July — Peyton listed projected profits from the proposed changes as revenue. However, Wallace said the Council would not recognize the projections as revenue. Instead, Wallace recommended the use of the reserve. He said whatever money Peyton’s changes bring in will replenish the reserve.

Alvarez said the reserve resulted from pooling interest from four trust funds, some of which reach as far back as 1983. Once Peyton’s changes begin paying the City dividends, Council president Lad Daniels said the replenished account could be used for “wish-list” projects. For instance, a $6 million trust fund for downtown economic development.

Wallace said the account could be carried over to help fill gaps in next year’s budget.

The account’s largest expenditures will cover Fire and Rescue improvements, $2.9 million; Public Works projects,$312,567; and new two new tax collector positions, $150,000. The planned expenditures would leave $1 million in the account.

In addition to the account’s use, Wallace recommended the City add nearly $200,000 to its Carry Forward Schedule to ensure that funds allocated for a planned fitness center remain available to the Council if plans for the center fall through.