by Terry Rogers
On Monday, June 11, 2018, Milford City Council passed a balanced city budget with no tax increases. The passage of the budget followed two hearings held on June 4 and 5 where city agencies and charitable organizations in the City were able to present their requests for additional funding.
During the two nights of budget hearings, Council thoroughly reviewed all requests for funding as well as anticipated revenue to cover expenses. The budget, which totals over $43 million, was approved unanimously.
On the first night of budget hearings, Council heard from Carlisle Fire Company, Milford Museum and Downtown Milford Inc. regarding their funding requests. Joe Mriss, Treasurer of Carlisle Fire Company, explained that the volunteer organization was requesting the same $140,000 they had received over the past ten years. Mriss provided a brief explanation of what the money was used for, including EMS, salaries, gear and other administrative costs. For FY2019, the company plans to use $40,000 provided by the City to repave the parking lot, a project that will cost the company $100,000.
“I have a question,” Mayor Archie Campbell asked after the presentation. “I guess for the past ten years we have given $140,000. About 11 years ago, you were getting $40,000 and you wanted to buy some new equipment and we went up to $100,000. After the equipment was purchased, you continued to get $140,000. That’s a million dollars. Where is that money going?” Mriss explained that any funds not spent by the company were placed in a fund to purchase new ambulances and equipment. He said that the company was expecting to replace a ladder truck in the next two years at a cost of $1.2 million.
Councilman Doug Morrow explained that the fire company had not been charged utilities prior to the increase to $140,000. To offset the need for the company to pay for utilities, Council chose to leave the funding at $140,000. Councilman Owen Brooks commented that $140,000 is a bargain for a fire company and thanked Mriss for their service. Mayor Campbell mentioned that the City needed to hire five new police officers, so he was looking for ways to cut costs in order to achieve that goal. At the end of the two-night discussion, City Council approved $100,000 from the General Fund and $40,000 from the Carlisle Enhancement Fund for the parking lot repaving project.
Kent County Economic Partnership (KEP), a non-profit organization that helps support and expand business interests throughout central Delaware, requested $30,000 in funding to hire an executive director that will work throughout the County. Council agreed to put the funds in the budget, with the understanding that the City Manager will work out an agreement that spelled out the working relationship between the City and KEP and the deliverables for Council approval.
Milford Museum requested an increase from $26,000 to $30,000. Claudia Leister, Executive Director of the Museum, explained that several benefactors for the museum had recently passed away and that the State, which had been renting the building to the Museum for $1 per year, increased the rent to $500 per year. Council approved the request for $30,000 and an additional $500 for the increase in rent. DMI requested an increase from $40,000 to $45,000 as well as a percentage increase starting in FY20. Both the Milford Museum and DMI agreed to provide quarterly updates to Council as well as financial documentation at Council’s request.
The new budget includes funding to refill a Building Official position as well as the hiring of an additional Code Enforcement officer. This increased salaries and training costs in Code Enforcement will be $111,855. In addition, the budget included costs to repave North McColley Street, Mispillion Street and North Marshall Street as well as a match for the Northeast Front Street Transportation Alternative Improvements that will include streetscaping and bicycle/pedestrian paths. A City share for sidewalk improvements is also included in the new budget.
After all requests were reviewed, Mayor Campbell reminded Council that Chief Kenneth Brown had requested five new police officers and that he did not see any information in the new budget to cover the cost of those officers. Councilman Morrow mentioned that the Police Committee had suggested looking into a referendum to cover the cost of the new officers as well as a new police station. Mayor Campbell asked if real estate transfer tax monies could be used to cover the cost of additional officers and City Accountant Susannah Frederick explained that real estate transfer taxes were not a reliable source of funding for expenses that would be ongoing, like salaries. With the seating of a new Council, there are new members on the Police Committee. At the next meeting, the Committee will determine the best approach to adding new police officers as well as funding for a new police station.
“The current fiscal condition of the City is stable,” Eric Norenberg, City Manager, said. “In particular, the utility reserve funds are healthy and building permit revenues are growing. However, funding decisions to improve the City’s general fund capital reserve is needed in order to have a stable fund for future street maintenance, equipment replacement and facility maintenance and repairs. State Community Transportation Funds and Municipal Street Aid cannot be counted on to make up the difference.”
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