Arlington reviews proposed 2014 budget

City of Arlington Finance Director Jim Chase presents the proposed 2014 budget for the city of Arlington to the Arlington City Council on Nov. 18. - Kirk Boxleitner
City of Arlington Finance Director Jim Chase presents the proposed 2014 budget for the city of Arlington to the Arlington City Council on Nov. 18.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — The proposed 2014 budget for the city of Arlington is expected to be voted on by the Arlington City Council on Monday, Dec. 2, in the wake of city of Arlington Finance Director Jim Chase’s likely penultimate presentation of the budget to the Council during its Monday, Nov. 18, regular session meeting.

Chase explained that the budget projects the city to start the New Year with a balance of $16,919,146, to which it’s expected to add $42,410,651 in revenues for 2014. Even with a projected $44,614,929 in expenditures for next year, that would still yield an ending fund balance of $14,714,868 for 2014.

“Our budget for 2013 was $49,483,410, up from the budget of $39,778,098 that we had for 2012,” said Chase, who accounted for a significant portion of that increase by pointing out that the Transportation Improvement Fund grew from $1,940,042 in 2012 to $10,441,800 in 2013. Although the Transportation Improvement Fund has been reduced to $4,144,958 for 2014, that’s still larger than the fund’s $1,483,426 in 2011, back when the city’s budget was $42,939,371 for the year.

Chase reported that the 2014 general fund is $12,985,530, which is slightly up from $12,878,609 in 2013 and $12,852,487 in 2012, but down from $13,410,790 in 2011.

“Police and fire are the two biggest expenditures in the general fund for 2014,” said Chase, who explained that law enforcement adds up to $5,069,852, or 39.04 percent of the budget, while fire control adds up to $2,464,645, or $18.98 percent of the budget. “And at $9,035,682, the water and sewer utility fund is our largest fund outside of the general fund.”

Chase touched upon the city’s other funds by noting that the 2014 budget sets aside $944,200 for the street maintenance fund, which is responsible for all the city’s public streets, while its Emergency Medical Services fund of $2,714,756 in 2014 is drawn from $1,426,756 in taxes, $1,600 in intergovernmental funds, $1,185,900 in charges for services, $500 in miscellaneous funds and $100,000 from the beginning fund balance left over from 2013.

“Of course, our water and sewer funds are drawn almost entirely from our monthly utility fees, as is our storm water management fund,” said Chase, adding that the latter fund will have $948,000 in total resources to support the city’s efforts at flood management and water quality protection. “Likewise, of the airport fund’s $3,760,055 budget for 2014, $2,916,916 comes from its miscellaneous fund, which is basically the rent that the Arlington Airport charges its tenants.”

Following a public hearing on Nov. 18 during which there was no public comment, the City Council’s remarks were relatively brief as well.

“With what you had to work with, this looks pretty good,” Council member Dick Butner said. “You had to be tough, and you did a good job of that.”

Arlington Assistant City Administrator Kristin Banfield, who had presented an earlier draft of the 2014 budget alongside Chase during the Council’s Oct. 28 workshop meeting, emphasized that, while the city is meeting its budget targets for this year, its financials remain very tight.

“We made substantial cuts to balance the 2013 budget, and we are keeping our expenditures within those cuts,” Banfield said. “The Council has also been very clear with staff that reserves must return to the amounts required by our policies. This is where we will continue to struggle. Even if a property tax levy lid lift passes, the city will only be three-quarters of the way to the levels required by policy, and the state auditors, by 2021.”

The budget assumes not only that voters approve the levy lid lift in the spring, but also that the current upward sales tax revenue trend will continue.

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