Council keeps talking ’23 budget

The Yuma City Council spent about another hour last Thursday evening discussing the 2023 budget.

The council and city administration are looking at ways to cut back next year’s budget if the 1.5-percent sales tax increase ballot question does not pass in the upcoming mail-in election. The new sales tax funds would go to ambulance, police, fire and street departments, and would sunset after 10 years.
The council had directed staff earlier last week to look into making 20-percent cuts in all departments, then report back at the next budget workshop, which was held last Thursday in Council Chambers.
All seven council members were present — Ron Swehla, Marc Shay, Tim McClung, Terri Frame, Jerome Benish, Dan Baucke and Marylu Smith-Dischner.
City Manager Scott Moore told the council the staff did not get to 20-percent cuts in all General Fund departments. However, he said updated projections show that 2022 expenditures will be close to projected 2023 revenue, explaining the personnel likely will not have to be cut, but there are no raises in the 2023 budget.
Moore said one way to meet the 2023 budget is to not open the Yuma Municipal Pool next summer. He explained that the pool is in need of significant repairs, and even if the city is successful in securing a $250,000 grant, it is not clear the work would be done in time to open the pool.
Numbers presented to the council last Thursday were based on the sales tax increase not passing.
Much of the discussion then centered on the American Rescue Act funds. The city has more than $800,000 in those one-time funds. It was explained the funds must be budgeted by 2024, and spent by 2026.
However, there are only certain projects that qualify for those funds. Repairs to the swimming pool do not qualify, the council was told.
One project that would is an update to the Zoom system used for council meetings, special meetings and workshops. The city first incorporated Zoom during the COVID-19 shutdown, when the council met remotely. Swehla said the city decided to keep using Zoom as part of the meetings since then as an effort to allow for more public participation. However, Baucke noted the public does not utilize it much. He said it would make more sense to spend money on that if 50-60 people were logging in each meeting, rather than a handful or less.
American Rescue Act funds could be used for upgrades to the animal pound, upgrades to the municipal courtroom for health and safety reasons, bonuses for first responders, a special needs playground, sidewalks for the city’s recreation areas,and work at the wastewater treatment plant in regards to the Total Dissolvable Solids situation. An update to the pool’s heating system also might quality, though not other upgrades at the pool.
It was mentioned about doing some street improvements with the funds, but Moore that likely would not qualify.
Preliminary budgets will be presented to the council during a special meeting today, October 13, at City Hall.