City budget better than expected

By Sarah Pridgeon

This year’s Sundance city budget is healthier than it has been in the two years since cutbacks were made on a state level, says Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Lenz. The additional funds collected from sales and use tax, gas tax and state distributions will be used to boost quality of life in the city and help prepare for the projects ahead.
“It’s always a challenge to meet citizens’ needs on a daily bases and fix and improve our infrastructure at the same time. It’s a balancing act,” explains Lenz.
“We need to maintain infrastructure, such as upgrading our deteriorating water lines and closing the landfill, but quality of life is equally important. Where do you draw the line? That’s one of the reasons we’re so aggressive in our search for grants.”
The budget is in “good shape,” says Lenz, and is expected to pass its final reading at the next regular meeting of the city council. Of the city’s priorities in the year ahead, completing the transfer station and getting the Cole Tank placed in its new home are at the top of the list.
“Finishing the Level 1 Master Plan water study is also important because, when it’s done, our next major projects will come out of it,” says Lenz.
The city also intends to focus on quality of life projects such as extending the walking path, all the way to the baseball field if possible, and finishing the swimming pool and transforming Washington Park and the pond. Water and sewer lines will also be added to some city lots and to the newly annexed areas of town.
“There are no big projects on the books right now aside from those we started last year,” continues Lenz. “We’ve done that purposely to see what comes out of the Level 1 study first.”
The city is still understaffed from the first budget cuts it experienced two years ago, she adds. “We’re down one police officer and one in the Public Works Department, but the council and mayor have decided to make the part-time office position back into a full-time position. It has been difficult securing grants and managing the office with just part-time help.”
There are no plans to fill the remaining shortages until the transfer station opens and grant money can be secured for a new police officer. This is partly due to the restrictions Governor Matt Mead placed on hiring, which stipulate that no new employees or positions can be hired with distribution money.
No changes on rate fees are forecast over the next year aside from the three to four percent standard increases that have been implemented over the last five or so years.
“The past increases in rate fees have come from a rate analysis study of our system that showed we needed to increase our revenues to maintain our infrastructure,” says Lenz.
Lenz points to the teamwork at City Hall as another reason for the budget spreading further than it has in the past.
“We have such qualified, quality workers and that means the city saves money because we can get so much done,” she says.
Three specific extras have boosted this year’s budget. This year’s gas tax will bring in around 75 percent more and this will go towards maintenance of the city streets, such as paving, potholes and drain pans.
“There is no designated grant money for streets, so this is a blessing,” Lenz comments.
Sales and Use Tax is up 15.7 percent across the county and is not anticipated to decrease in this next budget year. An additional $20 million was also distributed from the state in this year’s supplemental budget and Sundance will receive $175,221 for the city’s share, up from $115,093 last year; the funds from both sources will go into the general fund that takes care of the fire and police departments, ambulances, cemeteries, city parks and recreation.
The budget has been tweaked, balanced and prepared for its final reading but questions and comments can still be brought to City Hall before or at the next meeting of the council, Lenz concludes.