By REID TUCKER
The most obvious thing about the first draft of Paxton’s proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget is the disparity between the sewer funds’ projected revenues and projected expenditures.
The FY2014 sewer fund budget projects a 10-percent reduction when it comes to revenues and an 11-percent jump in expenditures. That drop (revenues are predicted to drop from $115,377 in the current budget to $103,700 in the new one) and that hike (expenditures are predicted to rise from $115,377 to $128,089) are the result of several factors, not least of which is a projected drop in revenues from sewer sales, which hung steady at $105,000 for the past two fiscal years. However, the early draft of the FY2014 budget, shows a projected decline to $98,000 if current FY2013 sewer sales are an indication, while expenses climb to $128,089 due in part to a new line item of $20,000 to pay a certified electrician to install a new lift station.
The sewer fund budget does not include the funds needed to secure an engineering grant to upgrade the sewer system. The Council voted 5-0 at its regular meeting immediately following the Aug. 20 workshop to bump the city’s commitment to an even $22,000 – an increase from the $11,131 already set aside for sewer improvements. The Council was set to address raising water and sewer rates at its next budget workshop, which was set for Tuesday, Aug. 27.
While the proposed sewer fund budget’s revenues and expenditures don’t yet line up as such, the water fund budget and general fund budget do balance out. The draft of the water fund budget shows an increase in total revenues and expenditures from $240,800 last year to $243,900. The change is due to increases of a little more than $1,000 in water sales and connection fees, while payroll expenses go 3 percent annually, plus a $6,486 jump in repair and maintenance costs as part of the ongoing U.S. 331 and State Highway 85 projects, among other, more minor changes.
On the general fund side, total revenues are projected to increase from $390,154 to $407,654, with a $5,000 bump in revenue sharing and an extra $10,000 from the half-cent sales tax accounting for most of the difference. Payroll expenditures are projected to drop from $104,700 to $98,800. The biggest change in operating expenses comes from a $5,000 increase in repair and maintenance, which is associated with the city’s several ongoing projects, along with a few other increases in areas like park maintenance, legal fees and miscellaneous expenses.
Moving into the regularly scheduled meeting held that same night, the Council swiftly dealt with a varied agenda packed with matters of city policy. The board unanimously voted to re-up the city’s contract with its audit services provider for $12,500, the same amount as last year’s agreement, and the Council also adopted a new city employee cell-phone use policy by a straight vote. Under the new policy, employees will be responsible for paying for overages if they exceed 400 minutes per month on their city-provided mobile phone.
The council also voted 5-0 to rent a modular medical building at a cost of $30,000 per year for a period five years. The building, which will be staffed by Walton County Health Department medical staff, had to be provided for and set up by Oct. 1 lest the city lose funding support from the state. The city will have the option to purchase the building at the end of the five-year rental period.
Finally, the Council agreed to hold a special meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 27, prior to the second budget workshop, to enact Walton County’s municipal services benefit unit for fire protection in the city limits. The ordinance to be voted on is the same as the one presented to the cities of DeFuniak Springs and Freeport.