RC council to hold budget hearing Tuesday

ROGERS CITY – The public will have its chance to weigh in on Rogers City’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year Tuesday.

Starting at 7 p.m., city council will hold a public hearing for what City Manager Joe Hefele is calling a bare-bones budget. With $1,805,229 in projected general fund revenues and $1,792,598 in expenses, the city is anticipating a small surplus. There are a few equipment purchases planned, but not many major road, water or sewer projects.

“It doesn’t include much of anything above and beyond the typical operating expenses,” he said.

The two projects that are included – preventive maintenance on Linden Street bridge over the Trout River and new fuel docks for the city marina – are largely grant-funded, Hefele said. There are some city expenditures associated with the projects.

Mayor Tom Sobeck said he believes the city’s finances to be as good as can be expected at this point. There are some challenges on the horizon, much as any other community faces: increasing costs, questions about personal property tax revenues and slow property tax growth. But a small projected surplus is good news.

Once the budget is adopted, Hefele said he’ll meet with city department heads to discuss long-term spending priorities. They’ll go over future needs and attach dollar figures to them when possible. This will make it easier to plan future budgets by laying out bare-bones budgets and figuring out where these needs will fit in out of what’s left.

“We’ll have plans and priorities from every function of city government – water and sewer infrastructure, streets, police department equipment, downtown improvements and park improvements,” he said. “We’ll be taking those lists of priorities and having an overall priority list, and we’ll determine what needs to be done and when.”

Property taxes are up slightly this year, thanks in large part to the addition of a $3 million crane to Port Calcite, Hefele said. Revenue sharing from the state has stabilized, and there’s still hope the state will increase what it’s paying local governments. Gas funds for the streets are stable, but these don’t provide enough to tackle any major road projects.

Sobeck said he is hopeful property taxes have finally started to level off. However, it’s likely the city won’t see big increases in revenue if they do start to rebound.

“While they still seem to be stabilizing, there’s a question as to whether they’ll increase,” he said. “If they do increase, we probably won’t be able to capture revenues from the increase as quickly as we lost it when they went down.”

Water and sewer rates won’t change, other than per-meter fees previously adopted, Sobeck said. He takes this as a sign that the city is on target with its rates and well-suited to continue providing quality service on both ends.

City council typically doesn’t get many comments on the budget, Sobeck said, although he’ll welcome those from anyone who wishes to make them.

“We like to hear the concerns of the public on the budget, all budgets,” he said.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.