Belgrade officials learned Wednesday the city will receive a larger chunk of tax revenue than antic-ipated for fiscal year 2020, which probably will amount to a “couple hundred thousand dollars” more than projected in the preliminary fiscal year 2020 budget presented to the Belgrade City Council Monday night.
City Manager Ted Barkley said the preliminary budget was prepared with the expectation that rev-enues would increase by 4 percent this year, but instead the numbers released by the state on Wednesday indicate that the increase actually will be about 7.5 percent. Without having had a chance to fully analyze the numbers Wednesday afternoon, he said the revenue likely would amount to between an extra $20,000 and $30,000 in the general fund budget.
“Today’s numbers – they’re enough to fund what we’ve been anticipating, and enough to accumu-late a little reserve,” Barkley said. “We don’t know how long this growth spurt will last, but we think we’re going to be on a four- or five-year run of fairly good revenue.”
Even in recent history, that hasn’t been the case, Barkley said. He reminded the council and citizens of Belgrade in an Aug. 1 letter that four years ago, property tax revenues from existing sources fell by approximately 16 percent, which had a drastic effect on municipal finances. To solve the fiscal crisis, voters stepped up and approved a 37-mill municipal services levy to provide additional fund-ing for police, fire and library services, and a 68-mill public safety levy that funded three police of-ficers for the growing city.
The higher-than-projected tax revenues will favorably impact those mill-levy funded budgets, as well as the general fund. Barkley said the library, for example, probably will receive about $38,000 of revenue over initial projections.
“It doesn’t make a huge difference to us operationally, but it does allow for a little bit of growth, so we’re excited about that,” he said.
One area where the better-than-expected revenue projections will make a difference is in compensa-tion for city employees. A 3 percent across-the-board pay increase was included in the preliminary budget, but the unanticipated revenues may make it possible to upwardly adjust salaries for de-partment heads who Barkley claimed are underpaid now. The increase does not include police and library staff, which operate under a different pay scale.
“That becomes really important to not only compensating people for what they’re doing, but as we look ahead to retirements, we need to be in the position to have compensation to attract really good people in those key positions,” Barkley said. “They need to be pretty sharp professionals.”
Other staff changes included in the budget are a school resource officer, whose salary will be large-ly funded by the school district, and the addition of part-time employees in the city finance, court, planning and city manager’s offices.
Also anticipated in the FY2020 budget are:
• The drilling of a new municipal well and preparation for city sewer expansion.
• Street maintenance projects, largely funded by the street maintenance levy.
• Applicable public works projects, funded by increased building impact fees.
• Expenditures for the creation of updated planning documents.
• Continued investment in information technology.
Barkley said the City Council may adopt the budget as early as its next meeting, but no later than early September. The council will hear public comment on the budget at its Aug. 19 meeting.