City OKs 2013 Budget & Increased Municipal Fees

The 2013 budget for the City of Lamar was officially adopted at Monday night’s council meeting, as council members passed the ordinance on second reading, as well as the ordinance pertaining to collection of taxes and the mill levy. Next year’s General Fund is set at $7,015,202, of which sales tax revenue is expected to be $2,793,861. The general fund reflects an increase of 1.9% over the 2012 budget which is based on what the council terms a, ‘slowly improving business activity within the city. Since 2009 sales tax receipts collected by the City have increased 4.4%.’ The proposed budget also includes the first wage increase to city employees in several years. Mayor Roger Stagner said he and City Administrator John Sutherland are in agreement in that some of the larger priced purchases or expenditures won’t take place until mid-year in 2013, once sales tax figures and other revenues have been measured against spending by the city. “We don’t want to get too far into the budget and find out our revenues aren’t doing what we expected,” said Stagner.

Council members also passed on second reading, the city’s annual mill levy which remains the same for the past 25 consecutive years, at 13.239 mills of each dollar of the total valuation for assessment of all taxable property within the city. The city will collect $454,727 in the coming year, an increase of .08% from $455,096 in 2012.

Some Lamar businesses and residents will notices an increase in rates and fees which have been increased by the city for 2013. Administrator John Sutherland explained the need for the minor increases which will affect general license fees, rounding them up 5% to the nearest dollar, as well as Sales Tax and Business License fees, Airport Hangar Rental fees and the addition of miscellaneous charges to the fees collected by the Lamar Police Department. The council also approved a change in wording regarding flammable/combustible storage tank fees. The fee increases are in the neighborhood of from $3 to $5 on most licenses. After some discussion, prompted by councilwoman Beverly Haggard, the members decided to exclude additional fees for extra man hours for the city’s police department during a funeral procession. Lamar Police Chief Gary McCrea said intersections along the funeral procession are monitored and officers conduct traffic control. “We really have no way of knowing in advance how many cars are in a funeral procession or how long it will take. There have been times we’ve had to pull in admin to cover all the roads, depending on which cemetery is being visited.”

The council was provided with a brief review of the goals the city wants to meet through several phases of energy conservation. They passed a resolution approving a contract with Honeywell Energy Performance to make HVAC improvements to the Lamar Community Building, as well as authorization to enter into a third party lease to fund the improvements. Other projects that Honeywell will conduct include additional improvements to the building’s lighting, improvements for other city owned facilities and Water Department well field and water meter system improvements. Gary Brengard of Honeywell Building Solutions provided an outline for the improvements, estimated to cost $3,961,000 after some additional cuts had been requested by Mayor Stagner and Administrator Sutherland. Utility and other savings is expected to cover most of the cost of the renovations. Honeywell representative Kevin Taylor estimated the projects should be completed within eight months from the start of the projects. He said all the phases will be undertaken at the same time as different contractors will focus on various aspects of the project of the buildings and water system improvements. Taylor and Brengard said about 70 to 80% of the project will go out to bid for local contractors. Honeywell Building Solutions recommended All American Investment Group to secure a municipal lease for the city.

Administrator John Sutherland outlined a settlement reached between the city and the State and Division Water Engineers for Water Division 2. The state had added the Lamar Pipeline water rights to its ‘abandonment list’. The city had protested the new classification, fearing that easements and some physical structures used by the city would also be included in the list. Over the past decades, the city began switching to the series of wells in the Clay Creek alluvium as a primary water source, but continued to use the original pipeline as a conduit. An agreement was reached between both parties for the city’s continued use of the lines.

Rick Akers, Parks and Recreation Director, reviewed the city’s need for an equipment storage building at the ball field facilities. Bids were received for a 30’ by 50’ metal shed, with Gamble-Perez submitting the low bid of $14,415 which was approved. The amount budgeted for the purchase was $40,000. Akers said there is a ‘dire need’ for this project which will eliminate the use of several smaller storage sheds at the ballfield, plus some storage the city uses from Lamar Community College.

City Administrator, John Sutherland, reminded the council that Subway will be the site of the next informal council breakfast, from 7 to 8am on Wednesday, December 5. On the first Wednesday of every month, the council holds an informal breakfast meeting at various restaurants around the city. Residents have been urged to attend these discussions to ask questions of their city representatives, or to bring some concerns to their attention. Other notable dates in December included the annual Parade of Lights at 6:30pm on Friday, December 7. City offices will be closed for the Christmas holiday on December 24 and 25 and the next city council meeting will be held on Monday, December 17 to accommodate the holiday calendar change.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinessChamber/Local BusinesscommunityEconomyEnergyFeaturedLamarPublic SafetyRecreationUtilities


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