Council approves 2021 budget, discusses other issues

The City of Yuma is going conservative, budget-wise, in 2021.
Nearing the conclusion of a difficult 2020 for everyone, the Yuma City Council approved the first readings of budget-related ordinances during its regular meeting, held last week virtually on Zoom. All seven council members participated — MaryLu Smith-Dischner, Daniel Ebersole, Marc Shay, Tim McClung, Steve Hoch, Dan Baucke and Mayor Ron Swehla.

This article contains only basics of the 2021 budget. Look for more details in next week’s Pioneer.
The council, last week, unanimously approved the budget appropriating sums of money and adopting the 2021 budget.
Some adjustments were made prior to approving the first reading. The fuel farm at Yuma Municipal Airport was budgeted for 2020, but will not be done until 2021. The same goes for a stormwater project at Lake Yuma, so those items are moved to the 2021 budget.
In the Police Budget, one patrol vehicle purchase has been cut, and COVID spending in the City Manager’s budget has been cut by $25,000 because it is expected less will be spent next year.
General Fund revenues are set at $5.33 million, including $1.49 million in unappropriated surplus, $3.2 million in revenue sources beside general property tax, and $650,00 in property tax revenue (though that number likely will change a big when the city gets final numbers for 2021 from Yuma County early in December.)
As for Enterprise Funds, the Electric Fund shows $3.29 million in revenue, Water Fund $942,170 including $191,770 in unappropriated surplus, Sanitation Fund $461,875 including $33,419 in unappropriated surplus, Wastewater Fund $832,500 including $81,000 in unappropriated surplus, Conservation Trust Fund $42,000 including $6,500 in unappropriated surplus, Capital Projects Account $501,000 including $137,284 in unappropriated surplus, Firemen’s Pension Fund $24,000 including $5,000 in unappropriated surplus, and Sales/Use Tax Bond Fund $353,977.
Appropriated Sums are: General Fund, $5.28 million; Electric Fund, $3.24 millinopn; Water Fund, $942,170, Wastewater Fund, $832,500, Sanitation Fund, $461,875, Conservation Trust Fund, $420,000, Capital Projects Account, $638,282, Firemen’s Pension Fund $24,000, and Sales/Use Tax Bond Fund $449,161.
The Yuma Ambulance Service was involved in two ordinances approved last week. One was the second reading of the ordinance moving the service from an Enterprise Fund into the General Fund because for various reasons it no longer can support itself. After no comment during the public hear, that ordinance passed on second reading.
Then there was the first reading of amending the 2020 budget. Since the Ambulance Fund is being moved into the General Fund, the auditors recommended transferring it into the General Fund at the end of 2020. The ordinance amending the 2020 budget states the appropriation for the Ambulance Fund is increased from $867,900 to $1.17 million. It passed on a 7-0 vote.
Then there is the ordinance setting the mill levy and property tax revenue for 2021, which will change a bit when Yuma County finalizes the assessed valuation early in December. The first reading was approved unanimously. As of now the assessed valuation for the City of Yuma is set at $25.3 million, resulting in a mill levy of 30.65 mills levied upon each dollar of the total valuation. That is expected to raise about $650,000 in property tax revenue.
Besides the ordinance moving the Yuma Ambulance Service into the General Fund, the council unanimously approved the second reading of two other ordinances.
One raises the legal age to possess and purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, following the Colorado General Assembly passing legislation raising the age limit earlier this year.
The other makes changes to the municipal code eliminating a 7 p.m. curfew for commercial solicitations. A court case in Castle Rock determined that such curfews are unconstitutional led to City Attorney Kathryn Sellars recommending to eliminate the curfew as it is the path of least risk for a lawsuit in the future. (It was stated at the previous council meeting that the city has not received complaints of commercial solicitations door to door in at least the last several years.)
The council unanimously approved purchasing Personal Protective Equipment for the Yuma Ambulance Service. The quoted cost for the various PPE was $3,076.75. The council approved a motion for the purchase not to exceed $34,000, in case there are some shipping costs involved. The purchase is being paid for by COVID-related funds supplied by the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).
City Manager Scott Moore told the council he would continue working at home until December 3 as he is on quarantine.
An executive session was held at the end of the meeting for the purpose of evaluations of the city manger, city clerk/treasurer and chief of police.
The council adjourned the meeting after reconvening in public.

Utility cutoff
Moore brought a discussion about utilities, specifically when service is cutoff, before the board last week. He explained there had been a “fracas” on social media a few weeks ago when a customer was cut off. The city, particularly Moore, was the center of negative commentary.
Moore said it was thought there would be some public comment about it at the previous meeting, but none materialized. He said he still thought it was a good idea to bring it before the council.
It was explained that utility bills are due each month on the 10th, are considered past due later in the month, the customer is disconnected on the 26th if full payment is not made. Customers are not given an extra month to fall behind.
Smith-Dischner asked if the city could provide information somewhere on the monthly bill will people could seek help if necessary. Wells said she has talked to the Rural Communities Resource Center, which does provide such help, if their information could be included on the monthly bills but had not heard back from the RCRC.
It was mentioned that the Yuma Ministerial Association also provides help at times, and there are other resources.
Moore noted that the city’s phone number is included on the bills, and when people do call they are referred to the RCRC and YMA.
Smith-Dischner said she thought it would be a gesture of good faith by the city if it could include such information on the utility bills, noting that public perception is important.
Council members agreed it would be good to be able to provide information and options on the utility bills, but it is up to those organizations if they want to be included on the utility bills.

Yuma Museum
Monica King, president of the Yuma Museum Board of Directors, virtually met with the council during last week’s meeting.
She noted the museum did not receive a grant from the Colorado Historical Fund, as there are less available fund grants since its main source of revenue, gambling at Colorado’s casinos, has been severely restricted this year due to COVID-19. She said the grantors did not the idea of changing the roof or using brick as the look of the building cannot be changed.
King said that in hindsight, the museum board decided it was a blessing it did not receive the grant as the historical fund because the historical fund then would have control of how the building looked inside and outside for the next 20 years. She also noted the historical fund group is more interested in more historical buildings than the 40-plus old Yuma museum which does not have any particular historical architectural components.
King told the council the museum’s top priority still remains a new roof. However, costs have increased significantly as preliminary bids for a sloped roof and gutters are as high as $80,000, well above previous bids.
The museum has funds in hand from Yuma County for $10,000, from Colorado Trust for $5,000 and COVID funds of $5,000. The $12,500 the city had committed to the grant is being returned to the city since the grant was not received.
King reported the museum is seeking other grants to help fund the roof work, and interior projects. She asked if the city would still provide funds since it is a city-owned building. The city had budgeted $25,000 to the museum in 2020, but Moore noted it has budgeted $12,500 in 2021.
Baucke pointed out it is a tough time to do such projects because costs have increased so much, though he added he expects the costs to come back down eventually.
King said the museum is looking into El Pomar grants, which the Wray community has used extensively but Yuma never has. She also said the museum board is focused on community fund-raising, which the council agreed is a good path to pursue.