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Alton approves $5.9 million budget

This article originally appeared in the Friday Sept. 27, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.

After previously voting to leave the current property tax rate unchanged, Alton commissioners approved a $5.9 million budget for their next fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

At their Tuesday meeting, city commissioners approved the budget which included a general fund balance of $203,170. At a meeting last month, commissioners were presented with a preliminary budget that had a general fund balance of negative $17,029.

City of Alton“Staff did a great job of scrubbing the budget to get that number up,” City Manager Jeff Underwood said. “We’ve done some work and have a positive fund balance to present to you.”

The budget projects $5,991,572 in total revenues and $5,788,401 in total expenditures.

After the meeting, Underwood said that to increase the general fund balance, the finance department did a “scrubbing” of projected expenses.

“We looked into seeing if we could purchase items department heads requested with other funds and see what we could hold off on purchasing for another year,” Underwood explained. “We saw some areas in our revenues where we were underestimating so we ended up increasing that a bit to remain conservative.”

The budget included a new position in the Parks and Recreation Department for a parks laborer who will oversee maintaining both of the city’s parks and a new full-time dispatcher at the city’s police department.

The budget will raise more revenue from property taxes than last year’s budget by $45,654, according to the budget.

At a meeting last month, council members voted to keep the property tax rate at .4440 per $100 valuation where it has been for a decade due to an increase in home values, according to the budget.

The budget also called for a new garbage truck, a new police vehicle and a new public works vehicle, all three which total $350,000.

Underwood informed commissioners that, should revenues and expenses track, the city is projecting a one-time pay adjustment to be made for the city’s 87 employees toward the end of the calendar year.

Underwood also discussed the city’s fire service fee, an optimal $3 monthly charge made to property owners where the city can bill residents for fire protection. The approved budget didn’t project any revenues from that fee.

“Based on the ordinance we have, we have the right to enact it when we feel like there’s a need to, but we’re not planning on doing it this year,” Underwood said, adding that it’s been years since the city last enacted that fee. “When we’ve done it in the past we’ve seen revenues in the $50,000 range, but we don’t do it every year. We reserve the right to use it if revenues are falling short.”

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