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updated: 11/8/2012 11:12 PM

Batavia begins budget review process

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Batavia aldermen used a budget presentation Thursday to talk about what the city's focus should be and what the future may bring.

But they also picked at line items, such as whether the city needs to have a police records technician on duty all day, every day.

The government services committee started reviewing the proposed 2013 budget. A formal public hearing will be conducted Nov. 19, and the full city council will vote on the budget in December. The fiscal year starts Jan. 1.

The budget expects $88.89 million in revenue and $93.38 million in expenses -- almost $8 million more than projected ending expenses for the 2012 fiscal year that ends Dec. 31. It is lower than the 2012 budget, which was $104.85 million. Much of the increase comes from spending in the utility funds.

The proposed budget has been slightly revised since it was posted on the city website, correcting some clerical errors and adding an expense.

The largest portion of revenues and expenses is the city-run utilities: Electricity, water and sewer. Those are primarily supported by user fees, not property taxes. Utility expenses are proposed at $48.1 million in the electrical fund, $4.6 million in the water fund and $4.6 million in the wastewater fund. The proposed budget factors in a 3 percent increase in water rates and 8 percent in sewer rates, which the council already approved.

The proposed budget includes 2 percent raises. Some raises were negotiated with unionized employees in the police, fire and electric departments. Nonunion wages were frozen in 2009.

"The people who aren't in the unions took a bigger hit to begin with," City Administrator Bill McGrath said, explaining the across-the-board raise. In years past, the city would study salaries of comparable municipalities and adjust its pay rates to meet the median. It would also endeavor to keep things equitable between union and nonunion employees with somewhat equivalent jobs. Peggy Colby, the city's finance director, pointed out the city is operating with 22.5 fewer full-time positions than it did at the beginning of 2009.

Alderman Dave Brown worried the $20,000 set aside for downtown streetscape maintenance won't be enough. Brown said that won't go far, especially if the city contracts out the work and has to pay the state's prevailing wage rate. Brown's committee, community development, shepherded the planning of the city's streetscape improvement project.

Alderman Jim Volk noted the $50,000 set aside for maintenance and repairs of the city-owned Thomle Building and the former First Baptist Church and school building; he urged the council to seriously pursue the sale of the buildings and decide whether the buildings should even remain standing.

Colby said she expects sales tax receipts to rise slightly, and so budgeted in 0.5 percent more for that. "We are consistent in food sales (year over year), but still, obviously, the economy will be an issue," she said.

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