By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Some good news came along with the city’s annual audit report heard at Monday night’s city council meeting.
Terry Galloway of the Grand Island firm Almquist, Maltzahn, Galloway & Luth reported several areas of the 2009-10 budget year audit were in good shape, and even rated some “excellent.”
He noted the city’s cash reserves are in “very good” shape, good enough that the council could consider retiring some of its debt early, or use some of those reserves to offset impending utility rate increases.
In another part of the audit report, it was recommended that rates be increased for water, sewer and electric customers.
That was based on the expenses and income tallied the past year in those utility departments.
Based on figures in the report, the city had more then double the cash reserves in the “government activities” and about 33% more in its “business-type activities” area.
In dollars, for the “government activities” area, the city has about $1.4 million in reserves; the recommended level is $526,000.
In the “business-type activities,” $1.8 million in reserves is recommended; the audit showed $2.4 million in reserves.
Galloway noted the city has enough reserves in the General Fund to cover about 11 months of city business, which is excellent, he said.
“It’s one of the strongest” we’ve seen in the many municipal audits his firm conducts across the state, he said.
The city’s debt is higher this year than last, he noted, but said that was due to the recently-completed street paving projects. It’s still in the “good” range, however.
In a review of the city’s four sources of revenue, Galloway noted Imperial’s property tax is higher than recommended for communities this size.
Imperial’s property tax rate runs at $370 per capita, while the recommendation is $250, he said.
“That is a little bit high from what is recommended,” Galloway said, but added most of that is due to the outstanding debt the city has at this time.
Once source of revenue showing very strong receipts is that from the sales tax, Galloway noted.
While the average is about $150 per year per person from sales tax revenues, Imperial tallied $192 per capita the past budget year.
“You have good retail trade out here, it’s a good hub,” he said.
State allocation aid to Imperial at $126 per capita is lower than the recommended $145. Galloway said that’s due to Imperial’s higher valuation. The state won’t subsidize cities when they see higher levels of property taxes within the community, he added.
He commended city officials for its replacement of capital assets, noting they have done a good job replacing equipment and infrastructure.
He felt Imperial’s valuation is at “true market value,” unlike some other communities its size at about 60 to 70% of fair market value.
Its valuation allows the city to ask for a lot more in property taxes, but in turn, it then affects what Imperial receives in state aid.
The final part of Galloway’s report rated each city service area by its per-capita cost, laying out what the city spends and comparing that to what’s recommended.
Administration—$69 per person spent, $100 recommended.
Pool—$22 spent, $20 rec.
Police—$131 spent, $100 rec.
Fire—$24 spent, $25 rec.
Library—$60 spent, $40 rec.
Park—$53 spent, $60 rec.
Ambulance—$3 spent, $10 rec.
Cemetery—$20 spent, $20 rec.
Community Development—$30 spent, $25 rec.
Galloway noted that areas including the police, library and community development were higher than recommended, but, “That is the level of service you have chosen to provide here for your taxpayers.”
But, he added, city officials still need to recognize that’s a cost over the recommended level.
Following the presentation, the council accepted the audit and its accompanying financial statements.
Other council business
- Two pieces of property in the city were approved for zoning changes upon recommendations from the Planning Commission. One involved two lots in the Sunrise Addition owned by Dan and Tiffany Reeves, who requested a change from R-2 (multi-family) to C-1 (highway commercial). Reeves plans to construct an ag-related building on the now-empty lots. The other change corrected a mistake in the zoning book that had Lots 8-11 in the Claney Subdivision as C-2 (downtown commercial) instead of C-1 (highway commercial). Bob Mendenhall, owner of the Imperial Mini-Storage on those lots, requested the correction.
- Things are moving along for opening of the new child care facility later this month as a service of Imperial’s senior care facilities. Administrator Darin Severson said the remodeling is 75% complete for the facility to be located in the basement of the Parkview Assisted Living complex. They have March 28 as a targeted opening date, and already have 25 youngsters on the list. Five people have applied for positions there, and interviews have started. Severson said the facility, which also will have an after-school program, will service youngsters age six weeks to 12 years old.
- Sets of bleachers in the city gym were declared “surplus property” on a council 3-0 vote. People interested in them can submit sealed bids. They will be sold to the highest bidder. The purchaser will be responsible to move them out. At the last council meeting, approval was given for a new flooring system in the gym. Rewiring work is underway in the gym, and new lights have been installed.
- Street closings were approved for the various car and motorcycle shows Aug. 20 during the 2011 Chase County Fair, which will encompass most of Wellington St., from the post office north to East 9th, and several of the side streets. Rex Felker, president of Car Nutz, was at the meeting to request areas for their show.
- The council okayed an additional $2,500 expense for commercial tile in the city office complex. It will replace what’s currently there along the south entrance, as well as the north/south hallway near the gym’s west doors. All of the new carpet in the city offices is down after work started on it two weeks ago.