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Local News

August 1, 2013

Budget review to give city outline for its spending

DUNCAN — City officials have completed a midpoint review of Duncan’s financial picture that could pave the way for more decisions on spending in the coming months.

City Budget Director Patti Clift has combed and reviewed data on revenues and expenditures for the first six months of Duncan’s $61 million 2013 budget and met with department chiefs to discuss specific questions and concerns.

In light of the review, City Manager Jim Frieda has asked staff directors this week to prioritize capital expenses they deem important and which ones could be put off pending a third-quarter look in October.

Frieda said decisions on those would not be made this week.

“But I will have a list of priorities and we just have to balance them out with money,” he said.

Some capital expenses, such as buying new equipment for the police and fire departments, already are being made as outlined in the budget.

But some, including various improvements at city parks and lakes, have not been made and might not occur at all this year because of budget and timing concerns.

For example, $33,500 was penciled in to build a small pavilion and playground at Hillcrest Park and $150,000 was budgeted for another parking lot expansion at Abe Raizen Park.

Those projects have not been undertaken yet and summer - when the parks are so heavily used - is halfway through. It might make some sense now, regardless of seasonal factors, to put them off until the next budget.

But there are other factors in play.   

The budget included $90,000 for a splash pad at Douglas Park on the south side of town, where a pool is no longer open. That city money was to be combined with a $90,000 state grant to provide an area of water play that requires no lifeguards.

The city is still waiting on the grant money to come through, and if it does soon, the project could move forward even if summer is on its last legs.

“If the grant comes through, I don’t want to lose the ability to accept that so I want to at least get started so we lock that grant in place and get the matching funds in place,” Frieda said.

Clift said sales tax revenues are relatively flat but coming in close to projections. But revenue from water and sewer utilities is down about $580,000 so far this year, in large part because of restrictions on outside water use imposed because of the drought.

Those restrictions conserve water and help protect Duncan’s continuing ability to provide it, but they also reduce utility payments — a big source of revenue the city uses to provide numerous services to residents.

Those developments are taken into account going forward.

The review disclosed some things that might not carry as big a price tag but are nonetheless significant.

A prime example, Clift said, was expecting about $55,000 in telephone franchise taxes this year from AT&T. But the company, at least so far, is paying only  $27,000.

Clift said AT&T sent the city a letter saying it was revising the way it calculates the tax.

“They didn’t give us any details so I want to see their records on what their gross revenues are in calculating that,” she said. “That is a prime example of one thing we thought would happen but didn’t.”

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