Cumberland Times-News

March 27, 2013

City leaders ponder projected water fund profit, how to retain extra policemen and firefighters

Greg Larry
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — The mayor and city council continued budget discussion Tuesday in an effort to hammer out its $36 million 2014 fiscal year budget that runs from July 1 to June 30.

While the city continues to struggle with deficits in its sewer department, the water fund continues to operate in the black.

If current trends continue, the water fund is projected to turn in a $1.9 million profit in 2014, according to a chart distributed by Joe Urban, city comptroller.

Although projections show the city’s general fund with a deficit of $21,659.00, income from the water supply is expected to neutralize that deficit.

The city’s assessable tax base is projected to increase by $14.5 million. The base is expected to grow from a 2013 level of $844 million to $859 million for 2014.

The increase in the tax base is projected to add $140,377 to the city’s bottom line.

A Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) MORE program grant, which added three policemen through federal funding in 2011, will expire in May. Officials discussed ways they may be able to fund the continuation of the three positions. The cost for the officers will be around $126,727 for fiscal year 2014.

The mayor and council show no desire to make reductions in the police force. In fact, it was pointed out that the police department is currently looking to hire additional officers.

“The discussion was more based on a way to fund them rather than a desire to not retain the positions,” said Jeff Rhodes, city administrator.

A similar discussion took place on the fate of eight firefighters who were also hired through a grant program known as the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER),

That grant also expires this year, causing the city to decide if it wants to pick up the $384,000 price tag for the firefighters and if so, how could they be funded.

City Councilwoman Nicole Wagoner wants to see an analysis showing the impact the eight firefighters have on the department.

“It would be good to see what effect they are having,” said Wagoner.

Officials said the economics of the fire department are difficult to obtain due to their constantly changing levels.

“Its hard to judge because it’s event related. It all comes down to fires,” said Rhodes.

Mayor Brian Grim also questioned the effect the firefighters are having in terms of the quality of service.

“What’s the impact to our citizenry? I don’t know if there is a way to quantify that in dollar signs,” said Grim.

“There is not an exact science,” said Rhodes.

However, the city reported making a large savings through a reduction in overtime by having the extra firefighters.

Officials have been pleased with the efficient manner in which blighted properties are being removed.

The city plans to add $25,000 from its coffers to an already earmarked $100,000 for the demolition of blighted buildings.

“Before we tried to tear them down through grant funding and it was a slow process,” said Rhodes.

The city wants to purchase four new police cruisers for 2014. The vehicles are expected to cost $24,000 each with an additional $13,000 needed per car to equip them for the specialized work.

At a cost of $206,000, the city wants to add a Permalog monitor to its water system. The monitoring program will help in detecting water leaks early.

The city is also looking to make $164,000 in updates to its technology systems in all of its facilities. New servers, switches and controllers are in need of an update, according to Urban.

All capital improvements will be subject to approval as the budget moves toward a final vote in May.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.