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Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Council discusses ways to grow revenue, cut costs

By William Kincaid
The City of Celina must consider the city's budget in the future as Celina is barely keeping its nose out of the water, councilman Jeff Larmore said.
Council's personnel and finance committee met Wednesday night, after a lively parks and recreation meeting, to further discuss this year's budget.
"I think we need to look a lot further out," Larmore said.
The 2010 budget, which passed first reading Monday night, appropriates around $37 million for all funds.
According to Celina Safety Service Director Rick Bachelor, the budget is balanced and ready for certification after final approval by council.
Council members are considering a few measures to increase revenue in the coming years, pending confirmation of legality by the city's law department.
Bachelor suggested assessing fees on telecommunication lines in the city's rights of way. Though the city would have to pay this fee too, it could be a legal way of internally transferring money from utility funds to the general fund, he sad.
If approved, the general fund could receive money from water, wastewater and electric utilities, as well as local gas, cable and telephone utilities, according to the minutes of a past meeting.
Other ideas discussed over the course of multiple personnel and finance meetings include using a portion of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) dollars for the police and fire departments. TIF is an eligible resource, but most of the funds are committed to debt repayment.
Council members may consider rescinding the 1 percent income tax credit on Celina residents who work outside of the city and pay income tax to the community they work for.
They also may consider increasing court costs.
Councilman Mike Sovinski asked the administration to create a list of all possible changes and their projected revenue intake.
Council members also assessed the parks and recreation department. In addition to considering whether to close Bryson Pool, members have had queries on other possible ways to cut costs or garner income.
At the request of council members, Celina Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Fortkamp discovered that the city would take in $800 through vending machines at the pool and no one would need to work the park's concession stand.
Fortkamp said he still needs to contact Pepsi to determine how much money the city could obtain through an agreement for pop machines.
He also is in negotiations with various organizations that use the park without paying, including fall soccer and softball tournament organizers.
"It's going to be a set fee," he said.
After parsing the parks and recreation department budget, council members learned three movie nights - where a motion picture is projected to a giant screen for the public - are scheduled for this summer at a total cost of $4,000.
"That could be a possible cut," council member June Scott said.
Council members went into an executive session for the purpose of discussing the compensation of personnel and its effect on the budget. According to city auditor Emily Stewart, 72 percent of city employees made more than $40,000 in 2009.
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