It’s time to set the budget for the next year for public organizations everywhere. And the city of Havre wants to know what residents think of their newly proposed $17.3 million plan.
Havre City Council received its budget rundown at Monday night’s meeting and agreed to hold a public hearing at the next meeting, Sept. 4, with another meeting, final reading and vote the next day, Sept. 5.
Residents interested in seeing the entire budget are encouraged to stop by City Hall to take a look at the nearly 40-page complete ledger before those meetings.
The budget is largely the same as in year’s past, with some fairly substantial changes in a few areas that have come out of recent policy or personnel changes.
One of the biggest changes is to funding for the city’s ambulance services. The usually property tax-subsidized program soon won’t be.
This year, $209,546 of the city’s $2.1 million property tax revenue will be used to fund the ambulance services. City Clerk Doug Kaercher said that number last year was more than $590,000.
The cost more than halving is the result of a price-hike passed in August 2011, from a $300 base fee and $10 per mile to a $500 base and $12 per mile.
Kaercher said he anticipates that by next year it will be completely self-sustaining. Then the city’s property taxes will go only toward the general fund, the library and insurance for city employees, both workers’ compensation and health.
There are a few negative numbers in some of the funds cash reserves, but Kaercher said those were grant-funded programs for which the city was waiting on reimbursement. In fact, two of the five, the Community Oriented Policing Services grant and the Atrium parking lot Community Transportation Enhancement Program, have paid the city back since the budget was written.
The other funds, from CTEP projects at the Senior Center and Lincoln-McKinley Primary School and a Department of Natural Resources and Conservation grant, are expected to pay up soon.
Property taxes appear to have gone up a little — Kaercher estimates just more than 5 percent — mostly as a result of an accounting hiccup in the county last year that left the city about $200,000 short and has since been corrected.
The city’s unemployment insurance has more than doubled for many departments, which Kaercher said was merely a price hike from the state government.
This budget also includes the beginnings an overhaul of the city’s technology policy, which should eventually consolidate every department’s now separate technology funds into one citywide plan and fund, which is increasing more than eight-fold this year.
Kaercher said the need for such a rethinking emerged as technical problems in the police department have popped up recently, including the failure of a server the police have been using since 2000. The replacement of the server will be followed by a review of technology policy and needs to develop a plan over the next year.