By Megan Bristow and Mike Smith
The Duncan Banner
Duncan city employees have been allotted a 5 percent pay raise included in the city’s 2013 budget, which was approved at a special city council meeting on Wednesday evening.
The decision to pass the budget was a unanimous decision by the city council. The budget was prepared by City Manager Jim Frieda and Finance Director Patti Clift and presented to the council by Freida.
The budget includes $3 million of a $9 million general obligation bond for street improvements that must win approval of residents in a city-wide vote. The city council would first have to vote on putting the proposal on a ballot, and city officials hope to have the election sometime in February.
If a bond is not approved, the $3 million would be removed from the budget.
Another focus of the budget is reducing the city’s debt, which in years past has been in excess of $60 million. Currently, the debt is at about $55,026,000 with about $4,900,000 paid annually for debt services.
“We are working on getting our debts down,” Mayor Gene Brown said. “That is one of our goals.”
Spending also includes $1.44 million that Halliburton has put in an escrow account to pay for extending city water lines to houses in a section of north Duncan where a contaminated missile fuel site is located.
Even if the $3 million money from a street bond issue and the Halliburton cleanup money are removed, the budget is about $800,000 more than the current budget that expires on Dec. 31. The new budget will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
Much of the spending increase would be directed at reducing the city’s unfunded pension liabilities for city employees.
The salary increases would cost about $492,000, but part of that would be offset by about $450,000 in savings the city will get by switching to Blue Cross and Blue Shield as its plan’s third-party administrator. Health coverage will remain the same but cost the city less because Blue Cross has a larger pool of participants.
Collectively, employees will pay about $70,000 more next year for health insurance premiums, which will effectively take a small bite out of the salary increases.
City workers got a 5-percent pay raise this year, so 2013 would be the second straight year for a sizable increase. Before this year, city employees went four straight years without any increases while yearly inflation drove up the cost of living.
Frieda said that 13 city positions have been left unfilled, mostly by design, in order to keep personnel costs low. In the budget, this translates to a savings of $721,045.
Some city departments will get increases for capital improvements next year, while some will get less.
For example, city police got $207,500 for improvements last year but will get $37,600 less this year. Much of the reduction is due to spending less for capital lease payments for vehicles.
About $137,000 was steered to improvements at Duncan’s city lakes this year, but $272,000 is allocated for next year. The largest expenditure next year is $150,000 for a new fish house at Clear Creek Lake, and $60,000 is directed at campsite improvements — up from $10,000 this year.
No public opinion on the 2013 budget was voiced as no public was present at the council meeting, a disappointment expressed both by Frieda and members of the council.
“It is upsetting when they do not understand our expenditures for specific items,” Frieda said.