BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (June 6) — During the Monday, June 6, meeting of the Dresden City Board, aldermen approved an ordinance outlining the 2022-2023 FY Budget on second and final reading, following a public hearing.
The City of Dresden’s budget for FY 2022-2023 includes has no property tax hike, but water and sewer rates will climb slightly. The board also considered capital expenditures and a pay raise for city employees.
FY 2022-2023 Budget
Discussion concerning the FY 2022-2023 budget continued from a May 23 budget meeting, and part of the information discussed at that time, as well as conversation at Monday night’s meeting are included below.
According to Mayor Jeff Washburn, the FY 2022-2023 budget is balanced and is very conservative, with few capital expenditures for new equipment, due to a potential loss of property and sales tax revenue. He said the monetary outlook may very well improve, as former businesses rebuild and new businesses come to Dresden in the coming months; however, the mayor noted it’s better to plan for a lean year in order not to risk going over budget, and if tax revenues increase, all the better.
Water And Sewer Fund: Because the law requires municipalities to charge rates necessary for their water and sewer funds to be self-sufficient, without dipping into property tax funds, Dresden’s water and sewer rates was increased to cover the cost of state mandated and local capital projects paid for out of the water and sewer fund.
Inside the city limits of Dresden, the monthly base water rate for residential, churches and commercial structures will increase from $12.50 to $14, which amounts to a $1.50 price hike. Additionally, the rate for water usage over 2,000 gallons is climbing from $2.10 to $2.35 per 1,000 gallons of water usage.
The base rate for sewer service is increasing from a minimum of $18.75 to $21.00, which amounts to an increase of $2.25. Sewer rates are 150 percent of the water usage.
Customers outside the city limits will also experience an increase in the cost for water and sewer service. The non-resident base water rates are climbing from $28.45 to $29.45, and rural customers will be charged $3.82 per 1,000 gallon consumption over 2,000 gallons. The base sewer rate amounts to 150 percent of the non-residential water rate.
The base water rate charged for the housing authority (40 units) is $14 per unit, with a $500 minimum. The charge for water usage over 80,000 gallons is 2.35 per 1,000 gallons.
Mayor Washburn explained, due to the destruction of homes and businesses in the December 10, 2021, tornado, there has been a decrease in water usage. This has resulted in loss of revenue, which necessitates an increase in the water and sewer rate to cover operating expenses and upkeep. However, the mayor noted, with the rebuilding of homes and businesses now underway, the city may be able to reduce the water and sewer rates as more customers resume services.
Capital Expenditures for New Equipment: The only major capital expenditure for the purchase new equipment planned for the FY 2022-2023 budget was a new brush truck to extinguish grass fires. Mayor Washburn stated the fire department’s current brush truck was damaged in the December 10, 2021, tornado and needs to be replaced. He explained the S-10 pickup was donated to the City of Dresden over 10 years ago, and has inadequate pumping capacity to do a very good job. The mayor informed the board a new, fully equipped, brush truck would cost approximately $52,000, but the cost could be financed through a loan spread out over a three-year period.
Other expenditures for proposed capital projects, which will be financed by appropriations, as follows: street paving = $278,525; sidewalk repair = $15,000; and Christmas decorations = $10,000.
According to Mayor Washburn, other departments received new equipment during FY 2021-2022 and are in pretty good shape. The police department purchased three new police vehicles, after receiving insurance money and transferring $4,000 out of the fire department. Additionally, the highway and street fund received a new grapple truck.
The purchase of a new leaf blower machine, which vacuums up leaves, was discussed, because the 10-year-old machine has constant break-downs, due to component failure. It was noted the bearings had to be replaced twice during the past leaf pickup season. Alderman Lyndal Dilday stated the excessive vibration might be attributed to a bent drive shaft or other damage, after the blades struck sticks and metal objects while vacuuming leaves. However, it was decided to postpone purchasing a new machine for now and install new, top-of-the line bearings in the old one, which cost $800 to $1,000, instead of the cheaper, lower quality bearings costing $400 to $500. Because of long delays for parts and equipment, Dilday suggested ordering the bearings now, so they will arrive in time for this coming fall. It was decided a new leaf machine, which would cost approximately $80,000, could wait until FY 2023-2024.
Although the parks and recreation department needs a spray fertilizer machine, the mayor stated this is also left out of the budget until FY 2023-2024, because of it being a tight budget year.
Mayor Washburn noted Dresden will apply for American Rescue Plan grant funding to help cover the cost of a safe room planned for the city’s new municipal complex, and the purchase of a tornado warning siren. However, City Recorder Jennifer Branscum explained the grant for the safe room can’t be applied for until the plans for the municipal complex are finalized.
The mayor noted he hopes to get a grant to purchase a portable three-phase diesel generator, in order to provide electrical power for the city’s sewer lift station during a blackout. He recalled a previous loss of electricity left the sewer lift station inoperable, causing sewage backups in certain homes.
Branscum stated Dresden has been awarded over $900,000 in American Rescue Plan funding, with half to be received during FY 2022-2023 and the rest in FY 2023-2024.
Pay Raises: The budget calls for a 30-cent, across-the-board, pay increase for all city employees. However, the mayor stated if a department head gives an employee a poor evaluation, the worker might only receive a 10-cent pay hike.