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(Neb.)-Chadron City Council Wrangles With Budget

By: Roxie Graham-Marski Posted at: 08/08/2017 04:05 PM

(Story courtesy of the Chadron Record)
(CHADRON)-With the new budget year looming, the Chadron City Council reviewed the 2017-18 budget ordinance, which includes a tax asking of $870,000, for the first time Monday. There will be two more readings of the budget before it is approved.
In general, the proposed budget includes a 2 ½ percent increase in personnel costs and a general fund revenue stream from all sources estimated at $4.8 million.
The construction of a new hangar at the airport is included in the line items, though the city is still working out details on its fixed-based operator costs and aviation fuel sales. The latter two are scheduled to be discussed more in depth in two weeks. The budget also includes expenses for hosting the NebraskaState Fly-in next June.
Several items on Monday’s agenda will change how the budget looks at its next reading. The council voted 3-2 to award Smeal Holding of Snyder the bid to provide the city with a new pumper truck for the fire department at the cost of $455,649. The company was the only one to submit a bid. The fire department has been saving money for the pumper truck since 2011, and will need $96,000 in the FY 17-18 budget in order to complete payment. That’s roughly $5,500 more than originally anticipated.
The fire department’s budget will also include a down payment on the purchase of new air packs, and the council will have to determine what financing option to use to finish paying for that investment. Options range from $55,000 per year for three years to $25,000 per year for seven years.
The city, working with the Chadron Parks Foundation, will add sidewalks and solar LED lights to Memorial Park. LB840 community development funds in the amount of $52,190 were awarded to the Parks Foundation Monday for the project, which will serve as a start to the city’s Safe Routes to Schools project that was included in the 2012 Trails Master Plan.
Several increases to city fees were also reviewed for the first time Monday, and will be incorporated into the second reading of the budget to determine their impact. Among the most significant changes:
*admission fees to the Chadron Area Aquatics and Wellness Center will increase by $10 to help offset credit card usage fees and sales taxes charged to the city. The increase is expected to generate approximately $3,700 in additional revenues, said Building and Zoning Administrator Janet Johnson; the city has already paid more than $6,000 in sales taxes since the facility opened.
*dog licenses will remain at $3 per year for a spayed or neutered animal, and $11 for an intact animal; however, those rates will only be valid from January to February of each year. After that, dogs discovered to be unlicensed will cost $20/$40 to register. New dog owners or new residents in the city will have 30 days to purchase a license at the regular rate.
*the Dial-a-Truck fee for building materials/mixed loads will be $200 per load.
*requests to rezone a piece of property will carry a $150 permit fee, an increase of $50, because those requests require public notification and hearings.
*sewer utility rates will increase by $1.50 across the board, while sewer connection fees will jump to $250, and after-hours access to the wastewater treatment plant will go to $75.
*water rates are also set to increase by 10 cents across the board, and meter size charges will also take a hike, ranging from a $1 increase to a $26 increase based on the size of the meter. The Ridgeview Golf Course will also see a change in the way it is billed for untreated water. Its rates will now be one-third the rate of the city’s residential rates. That proposal calls for a hike in water rates for the golf course ranging from 33-35 cents per 100 cubic feet based on usage. The increase will mean the golf course will be hit with a per month cost of 1,940, for an annual cost change of nearly 24,000.00 a year.
The average customer – residential or business – will see a $3-4 difference in their monthly water bill with the new rates, while customers with a sprinkler system will likely see a $12 hike. Apartment complex owners are expected to see a $44 increase, and the golf course will see a $1,940 difference.
The changes in rates are expected to generate $35,000 in additional revenue on the wastewater side and $90,000 on the water side.
The rate changes are important moving forward, said Ted Schultz, with Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services. He presented the findings of a comprehensive study of the city’s water system Monday and noted that the city is on the low end of the scale for rates when compared with cities of similar size and with other municipalities in the region.
While the rates are adequate to do continue to do business as usual, there is no surplus available to make needed upgrades to an aging system, he said. Forty-five percent of the city’s water system provides inadequate flow for fire protection, and another 12 percent is only marginally adequate for that purpose. The city also has only two million gallons in storage capacity but needs three million gallons. Additionally, there are age and safety issues across the system, Schultz said.
Long-term, the city needs to work toward replacing the aging cast-iron pipes, building additional storage capacity and increasing water line sizes to resolve fire protection, water pressure and storage issues. To accomplish that, cities often increase base rate charges or apply surcharges to each bill per project as they are completed, he said.


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