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MW budget weathers economic storm

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By Alex Wimsatt

 MOUNT WASHINGTON - By no means is Mount Washington in poor financial condition. 

In fact, city treasurer Peggy Brinkman said the city’s finances are “sound” and that the proposed $12.1 million 2011-2012 annual budget recently presented to City Council for first reading reflects that.

However, Brinkman, who drafted the proposed budget under the direction of mayor Joetta Calhoun, said that in the nine years she’s served as treasurer she’s never seen more difficulty balancing a budget than City Hall had with the 2011-2012 City General Fund budget. 

What made balancing the numbers so difficult, Brinkman explained, was that while the proposed budget shows healthy revenue increases in some areas, other revenue sources are not expected to increase significantly in the coming fiscal year, which begins on July 1. 

With the anticipated slow climb in revenue, Brinkman said the city was not able to grant as many capital expenditure requests. On the other hand, she said all funds look good, the budget is balanced and there are no layoffs, furloughs or cuts in existing services.  

Brinkman said the anemic housing market was a contributing factor as building and the buying and selling of property continues to stagnate. As a result, revenue from permit and inspection fees are not expected to increase significantly. 

At the same time, interest revenue from bond investments has dropped off dramatically. Brinkman said some interest rates have fallen to zero, yielding no additional interest revenue to the city. 

Brinkman said that as the economy improves she hopes revenues will increase at a more significant rate in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, but that remains to be seen. 

“I don’t want to make it sound like it’s going down hill...It’s just not accelerating at the rate we had hoped,” Brinkman said. 

Though permit and building fees have declined, property tax revenue is expected to increase by around $55,000 in the City General Fund during the next fiscal year. Public service assessments revenue is expected to rise slightly, as is motor vehicle tax revenue, franchise bank tax revenue, insurance premium tax revenue and revenue from service charges. 

Occupational tax revenue is expected to reduce by around $13,000 from the current fiscal year, and other revenues, including alcoholic beverage control tax, intergovernmental/police revenues and license and permit revenues are expected to drop as well. 

Brinkman said $149,000 was needed to balance the budget when city officials first sat down to outline appropriations. 

To make up for the shortfall, administrative officials left out employee pay raises in the initial budget proposal, but during recent budget meetings, council members agreed the raises were needed. 

After city officials juggled the numbers they found enough room for all city employees to receive pay raises of 2 percent, slightly higher than the Consumer Pricing Index rate of 1.5 percent, which is based on inflation, cost of living and a number of other factors. 

To include the pay raises in the budget, the city had to cut some capital spending requests in the parks, police, and maintenance departments.

Brinkman called the proposed City General Fund annual budget “very lean” but stressed the city’s finances were in good shape despite rising costs and waning revenues.

Brinkman said city officials budgeted very conservatively and she attributed the city’s clean financial bill of health to careful spending practices and constant oversight from the administration. 

Brinkman said the city’s Water and Sewer Fund budget was much easier to balance than the General Fund thanks to good planning. 

The proposed Water and Sewer Fund budget shows enough revenue to cover costs and make payments on the $9.5 million loan borrowed from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority for the wastewater treatment plant expansion project, which is currently underway and expected to be completed late this year. 

There was also room to give all employees 2 percent raises, hire a new employee in the utilities department and fill two positions in the water department. 

City Council is expected to adopt the proposed 2011-2012 annual budget ordinance during their next regular meeting on Monday, June 27. 

In other business:

*While delivering the Mount Washington Police Department’s May report, police chief Roy Daugherty said there was a particularly high amount of activity for the month. 

Incidents include numerous thefts, hundreds of traffic offenses, dozens of fights and disturbances, and 32 vehicle crashes, 26 of which occurred along Highway 44.

Mount Washington police recovered $67,050 in stolen property for the month, including a safe with contents valued at around $60,000.. 

Daugherty attributed the activity increase, in part, to the warm weather, but he said many of the arrests in the report were the result of a late night safety check point that took place at the Bardstown Road Bypass and Village Lane Memorial Day weekend.

According to Officer Tim Morris, who helped with the check point, 19 arrests were made, seven were charged with driving under the influence, three warrants were served, 21 were stopped with no insurance, eight were cited for not wearing seat belts and one was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance in the first degree.

Morris said there were 61 other charges, 10 warnings were issued and 85 vehicle inspections were performed by law enforcement.

Additionally, Morris said a 15 year-old girl was stopped while driving to a friends house after taking her mother’s van from Louisville. 

On hand for the check point were 23 Mount Washington police officers, Bullitt County Sheriff’s deputies, Kentucky State Police, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, members of the Nelson County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Mount Washington fire personnel. 

*The council heard first reading of an ordinance that, if approved, would annex roughly 4.7 acres located along Stringer Lane about halfway between Highway 44 and Bardstown Road.

The property, owned by Mount Washington based Spalding Development Inc., is contiguous to the present city boundaries and contains two tracts, according to the ordinance, 

One tract is roughly 3.4 acres and is divided by Lily Kate Lane private road. The other is about 1.3 acres and is separated from the other tract by three lots. 

The council also heard first reading of a separate ordinance that would annex nearly an acre of property on Stringer Lane that neighbors the 1.3-acre property owned by Spalding Development. 

The property is owned by Mount Washington resident Donna Thompson. 

Council members are expected to vote on these ordinances upon second reading during their next regular meeting.

* The next regular meeting of the Mount Washington City Council will be held Monday, June 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall Annex building on Branham Way.

    The public is invited to attend.