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Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Celina budget needs help from general fund

By William Kincaid
Celina City Council members will need to approve supplemental appropriations, including $236,000 from the general fund, in order to make the city's 2008 budget whole.
Safety Service Director Jeff Hazel informed the city's personnel and finance committee about the budget discrepancy and need for additional funds on Wednesday evening.
"This isn't my favorite thing to do," Hazel told council members about the requested supplemental appropriations.
Hazel and city Auditor Emily Stewart recently brought in former city Auditor Pat Smith to help with the city's finances after noticing some disparities in the budget.
According to Hazel, council members will need to approve moving $236,000 from the general fund to various other funds at the next regular meeting on June 9. Of that money, $210,000 would go to the parks/recreation account and $15,000 would go to the street fund-transfer account.
The money is being moved into these accounts because there was not enough money to cover the expenses. When asked if there was anything in particular causing the additional appropriations, Stewart said "the accounts were found to be deficient."
Such appropriations would decrease the city's general fund from $805,000 to $569,000, Hazel said.
However, Hazel said there is actually $1.6 million in the general fund when tax revenue already collected this year is taken into account.
"It's a difficult budget," Hazel said this morning. "A lot of folks think we have one pot of money."
Hazel said the city finances itself with multiple funding sources and accounts. Many times, money must be allocated to certain accounts even though it will not be used - simply for accounting and legal purposes.
"We're just making sure it's whole," Hazel said about the budget, pointing out it must be balanced by July in preparation for next year's budget.
He also said through creative financing - such as applying for various federal and state grants - the city has secured thousands of dollars for many projects over the last few years. That money, though, must be properly allocated and planned for in the budget.
"We've gotten a lot of grant money," Hazel said, adding such funding gives the city a significant amount of leverage when planning for projects.
Councilwoman Angie King expressed alarm and asked for a comparison of the general fund to other years, to which she was told it is the lowest in five years.
"It's not an ideal thing," Hazel said.
When asked by councilman Rick Bachelor if the city has now accounted for all additional outstanding expenses, Hazel and Steward said it should be.
"I truly believe we have caught them all," Hazel said.
Hazel also informed council members that on a positive note, the city will be able to reduce appropriations already made by $2.45 million for the street construction, maintenance and repair fund; bike-path fund; and Enterprise-Livingston waterline project fund.
The reductions, to be made at the June 9 meeting as well, are possible because of the unintentional duplication of those accounts made earlier in the year.
Bachelor also pointed out that in April, the city took in $433,000 from income taxes - 7 percent more than projected for the month. Hazel said the city should bring in around $5 million in income taxes this year.
The city's finances may not be as totally bleak as it appears now, Bachelor said.
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