Citizens Budget Committee Receives $383.7 Million Budget up from $303.5 Million
The $6.7 million gap between projected Ashland general fund expenditures in the next two fiscal years and anticipated revenues will be filled with “carryover funds” from the current biennial budget, City Manager Joe Lessard told the city’s Citizens Budget Committee yesterday.
Part of this carryover is the result of unfilled positions in the city government. The move wlll reduce the city’s ending fund balance, which provides money to help pay city bills between the July 1 start of the new fiscal period and late fall when property tax revenues are received.
With the use of these carryover funds, the budget is balanced as required by law, Lessard said.
The proposed 2023-25 city budget forecasts expenditures of $383.7 million, up from $303.5 in the current two-year budget. This includes city enterprises such as electric, water, wastewater and the fiber network, as well as capital spending on major projects.
The general fund portion, including parks, is $96.4 million, up from the current combined $90.5 million. Six years ago, the 2017-19 actual city general fund and parks spending was $66.3million.
The city is estimating the personnel costs will be up 15.4 percent in the next two years, while purchases of materials and services will go 10.1 percent.
Helping to balance the general fund is an $8.4 million increase in anticipated tax revenues. Franchise fees are due to increase $1.9 million, but part of this is the result of the city not implementing a reduction in some of these fees which were approved two years ago when the current budget was adopted.
The committee was told that the City Council needed to approve these fee changes in a separate ordinance, but it was never presented to the Council.
Franchise fees are paid primarily by utilities, including for instance the city water and electric enterprises, for the use of public rights of way. Some privately-owned utilities directly pass these fees to consumers, while the city’s utilities include these expenses in calculating rate increases.
As part of this biennial budget, Lessard is proposing elimination of a separate parks general fund budget line, combining parks with other city line operating departments, including police, fire and rescue, community development and finance.