City of Ashland’s Revenues Decline
Ashland’s Food and Beverage Tax Income, Planning and Development Fees Decline
By David Runkel
Ashland’s food and beverage tax income dropped $320,000 in the city’s last fiscal year, while planning and building fees along with systems development charges declined by more than a half million dollars, according to a preliminary year end budget report.
The figures are evidence of an overall slowdown in business activity and curtailed economic growth, a topic the City Council is expected to discuss during a business roundtable at its Monday study session.
Food and beverage tax income for the year was $2,424,900, down from the previous year’s $2,748,555. Planning and building fees were $1,080,200, down from $1,573,873. System development charges on new construction declined from $534,874 to $471,500.
All other city revenues were up in the 12-month period ending June 30, except for $6,000 in lower collections in court fines and fees,
Overall, city tax, fees, utility charges and interest on investments grew by $1.9 million over 2022, to a total of $67.4 million. The biggest increase of $676,000 was in charges of electricity, water, wastewater, stormwater and telecommunications for a total of $36.3 million. Property tax revenues were up $190,000 to $12.7 million.
The figures are included in the preliminary year end finance update sent to the City Council Thursday evening by Finance Director Mariane Berry. Ms. Berry cautioned that “accounting will not close the fiscal year period ending June 30, 2023 for another several weeks, so the numbers are subject to change, however the bulk of the known activity for the year has been accounted for.”
As discussed during budget discussion last spring, city spending dropped sharply in the last fiscal year in large part due to unfilled staff vacancies during the transition to the city manager form of government.
This led to a $4.9 million increase in the general fund balance from June 30, 2022’s figure. Police, fire and rescue, parks, community development and general government expenses are included in the general fund. The adopted 2023-25 budget allocates spending all of this increase, plus more from city savings (called ending fund balances). Funding is included in the 23-25 budget for hiring 20 additional city staffers and filling vacancies.
The parks department general fund showed a balance of just under a million dollars, a decline of $2.2 million from June 30, 2022. The parks general fund has been rolled into the overall city general fund in the 23-25 budget.
Declines were also reported in the street fund from the end of the previous year, nearly $600,000, and the wastewater fund, $88,000, as a result of improvement projects completed during the last year. The water fund continues to carry a huge surplus, $17.4 million, as of June 30, 2023, up $3.1 million. This will help pay for the planned construction of a new water treatment plant, which Public Works Director Scott Fluery is currently estimating will cost $65 million. This is nearly double the 2020 estimate.
The electric fund is up $2.1 million and parks capital improvements is up $1 million.
Total fund balances as of June 30 were $83 million, with $17.8 committed to special projects, $11.5 million in restricted accounts and $53.8 million unassigned. On June 30, 2022, the total fund balances were $71 million with $40.7 of that unassigned.