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Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

$24.3 million carryover expected for city budget

St. Marys

By Amy Kronenberger
ST. MARYS - The city expects a carryover of $24.3 million in all funds going into 2013.
St. Marys city council financial committee learned Monday that appropriations and revenues for 2013 are expected to mirror 2012's.
Safety service director Eric Ostling said 2013 appropriations are estimated at about $45.6 million. Total appropriations for 2012 were $45.7 million, with anticipated spending at $41.8 million.
Final total revenues for 2012 are expected to be about $42.2 million. Ostling didn't have final revenue projections for 2013 but estimated it to be similar to this year.
Although expenditures are predicted to exceed revenues in 2013, Ostling said the city usually doesn't use all appropriations and revenues typically are a bit higher than estimated.
"Now this is the numbers game that happens," Ostling said this morning. "We usually don't spend the amount appropriated."
Ostling likely will present the final budget for council's approval in December.
Also on Monday, the city electrical committee toured the former landfill as a possible site for a solar field.
Former safety service director Jason Little in August told council about a program offered through American Municipal Power that he thought would be a great opportunity for the city to add more green energy to its portfolio. AMP is looking for 15 acres of flat land to install solar panels, which would provide solar energy to St. Marys and other AMP members.
Little applied to host a possible sight, and AMP is expected to make its decision soon. He had suggested a large area by the former landfill as a perfect location.
During Monday's tour, Ostling said they learned a sloping section of the former landfill could also serve as part of a solar field, which increases the city's chances of being chosen.
AMP representative Mike Weadock has told council the government gave $51.5 million in clean renewable energy bonds for previously considered wind and water energy projects. AMP would transfer the bonds to use on the solar project.
"This would consist of multiple sites and be a phased project," he had said.
The clean energy bonds would fund enough solar fields to create 30 megawatts of power. As a host, St. Marys, which averages 24 megawatts daily, would receive up to 2.3 megawatts of energy per day from its site without having to pay transmission costs. The city would be responsible for installing one mile of transmission line to the site.
Roderick Sibery, project operations manager at Spectrum Engineering, Auburn, Ind., had said installing the transmission line would cost about $180,000.
AMP would handle the rest of the costs and maintenance, and the city would be responsible for purchasing the energy from AMP in a 35-year contract.
The purchasing rates are still not known, but if comparable to Celina's solar field, the rates are expected to be about $67.50-$70 per megawatt, Ostling said this morning.
Electrical committee members on Monday also learned the study of the city's electric grid is now under way. The study, being conducted by Spectrum Engineering, would inspect the grid for current or potential problems and enter the information into a computer to create a model of scenarios and best options for the city.
The $129,435 project would be paid from this year's electrical fund, containing about $60,000. The last $78,160 would come out of next year's budget. The study is expected to take about eight months to complete.
The next regular council meeting is 7 p.m. Nov. 26 at the municipal building.
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