Mayor Feels Good About 4-Hour Budget Workshop

CHADRON – The Chadron City Council spent 4 hours yesterday with city department heads reviewing the first full draft of next year’s budget and looking for ways to erase a roughly $500,000 deficit from the proposal.

City Manager Greg Yanker called it very conservative on the revenue side while the spending side included a number of capital items of varying levels of urgency, leaving the council options on both to balance the final version while increasing the cash reserve to its million dollar goal..

Yanker cautioned that the impact of the coronavirus economic slowdown isn’t clear. Property tax payments are lower than expected but could pick up by the second half deadline while he thinks sales taxes for May and June will drop before leveling off at last year’s level.

Mayor Miles Bannan said the workshop session, which was open to the public but drew none, was very beneficial with a lot of information and a lot of give-and-take discussion and explanations on the best way to even out revenue and spending while still making transfer to the reserve..

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When Yanker took over 3 years ago, the city had nearly drained the reserve by using it for several years to balance the budget.

His first year budget had no capital projects and cut over a million dollars in spending to start the process of reaching the recommended 25% of general fund reserve. Bannan says the process this year is much less daunting.

The council gave Yanker directions on both sides of the budget. On the revenue side, they supported a suggested 3% increase in water rates – a dollar hike in the base rate and a 10-cents in the useage tiers for a monthly increase of $1.70 for the average residential customer.

They informally backed a pay raise package of a cost-of-lining increase of about 2.5% and up to a 1% merit increase instead of Yanker’s 2% CPI and up to 3% merit, cut of 2 new police cars, and decided to paint the zero-entrance area of the pool this year and the main part of the pool next year.

Yanker and finance director Jeanette Puzzo will use yesterday’s cuts and recommendations in preparing the version of the budget that will be formally presented to the council at its first meeting August, starting the 3 reading process that includes the formal public hearing and likely more trimming.

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