Last Wednesday morning saw Councilmen Owen Mathews and Dick Claar, Clerk/Treasurer Cheryl Schneider and Public Works Director Cory Allison refining budget items, discussing issues regarding the sewer fund and appropriating funds correctly for a more realistic budget view.
Sewer costs higher than rates
During the discussion on the water and sewer budgets, Mathews expressed his concern over the suggested use of state funding through the Capital Facilities Tax to pay operating costs for sewer, which is the practice of some communities.
“I don’t want to see us get in the habit of just seeing that as another revenue stream. It makes the water and sewer artificially looks like they’re in better shape than they are,” he said, bringing to the fore the problem of Moorcroft’s sewer operating costs outdistancing fees as the budget is adjusted to better reflect actual revenue and cost for the coming fiscal year.
He said that the sewer investment fees can support existing loan payments and moving forward with the lagoon project, but noted that, as the sewer budget is adjusted to cover more of its own operating costs, “fees aren’t paying for the operation. Put the rate where it needs to be for sewer maintenance (operating) costs [and] that leaves the loan payments intact [and] everything we’ve shown for our lagoon project remains intact with the USDA.”
The Moorcroft Town Center stood up well this fiscal year, said the group. With the loss of anticipated revenue from the children’s preschool, the MTC still arrived at the end of the 2016/17 fiscal year only $3017 over budget.
Department heads and council members deliberated a more accurate representation within the MTC budget by adjusting the hours that maintenance crewman responsible for hauling coal and other center-related duties work during the winter and summer.
The group wants to take a percentage of the vehicle replacement fund from water and sewer this 2017/18 fiscal year. According to Mathews, “That’s where a lot of that gets used. It is an expense for those departments [and] that shows actual expenditures.”
The vehicle replacement will be supported equally by public works; streets and alleys; water; and sewer.
Making up ground
The block retaining wall in progress around the west side of the maintenance yard north of Westview Park will receive funds from the water fund for completion. According to Mathews, because the yard and shop support the water and sewer system, rates should be able to assist this infrastructure build. “It’s been an ongoing thing since we built the shop, [to] get the yard built up. The shop is for water, sewer and all those things,” he said.
Deidre Budhal from Casey Peterson and Associates helped the Moorcroft Clerk’s Office clean up some of the town’s bookkeeping as she and her associates previously conducted a thorough audit review for the 2014/15 fiscal year and one of the issues she advised against is the use of the vague “miscellaneous” line items because of the difficulty tracking the moneys.
Last week’s attending council members handled that very situation as they perused two such “miscellaneous” line items. The first one that was found in public works will be renamed “supplies” and another that showed a $9658 expenditure for plants/landscaping around town within the current parks and recreation budget which will be designated a specific line item to town beautification and landscaping for future clarification.
By Grace Moore