The Vidalia Board of Aldermen will consider Mayor Buz Craft’s proposed $34.1 million 2020-2021 fiscal year budget during a special meeting Thursday at 6 p.m.
The meeting will be held at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center, 112 Front Street, to safely accommodate residents while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
In a message to aldermen in his 26-page budget proposal, Craft said the Covid-19 pandemic presented a “tougher challenge” than the “myriad of challenges” local governments already face daily.
He said several “capital improvement projects are planned” during the next fiscal year including “streets and sewer renovations, electric power substation and many other projects.”
The budget for the proposed fiscal year, which runs July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, shows revenue of $37,271,05 and expenditures of $34,102,625 for a project change in net position of $3,168,425.
The beginning fund balance is anticipated to be $29,085,867 with an ending fund balance of $32,254,292.
Town Accountant CPA Debra Moak presented the following summary of the proposed budget as follows:
General Fund: In most cases, arriving at projected revenue includes using the past year's revenues received, increased or decreased based on facts and circumstances at the time the budget is made.
The millage rate for property taxes in the Town of Vidalia has not changed in many years. The only fluctuation in ad valorem tax is due to increases or decreases in assessed value of properties in the town and due to changes in the status of commercial and industrial properties. The Town of Vidalia has had a tremendous growth in new construction this past year as compared to most towns its size. Even though there is a possibility of increased revenue from taxes, we are maintaining the budget at the current level.
Instead of recording monies moved from City Court to the Vidalia General Fund for the police department as transfers, we are reclassifying the revenue of $40k as fines and forfeits and decreasing other revenue sources by $40k.
The Vidalia Beautification Committee has raised approximately $15k in revenue this year to date as compared to $43k in the previous year through numerous fund raisers. These proceeds have provided firework shows on New Year's Eve and on the Fourth of July holidays for residents of the Miss-Lou area. They provided decorations for the town during various holidays, planted flowers around town property in order to make the town more attractive for visitors. The
budget is showing $20k for revenues expected to be raised, which is lower than the previous year.
Miscellaneous revenue is at $75k which includes the possible LWCC worker's comp insurance premium dividend. We received $103k and then $74k during FY 2020. The second payment came earlier than expected. LWCC provided the dividend earlier to help its customers during the pandemic.
Other revenues in the general fund departments are expected to remain approximately the same during the next fiscal year.
Special Revenue Fund: Revenues from local sources are projected 3.55% higher than last year. The biggest increase is due to the increase in expected revenues from hydro royalties. Fines and forfeits are trending lower than expected for the current year to date; therefore, the budget is showing a decrease in collections in order to be conservative. Other state sources are expected to remain the same.
Debt Service Fund: Revenue sources for the debt service fund are showing a decrease of 47%. The only debt included in this fund is the debt on the municipal complex. The general fund is the funding source for this debt.
Capital Projects Fund: The capital projects fund is showing a decrease in revenue of 27%. This fund includes the industrial park fund and the port construction. The revenue source for the construction account is from the State of Louisiana Capital Outlay Fund which is available to fund the remaining portion of the conveyor belt construction. This is the only capital outlay currently existing in the 20-21 budget. Revenues in the industrial park, including tower leases and payments from Concordia Parish Economic Development District, are expected to remain the same: Other revenue sources from utility fund transfers are expected to be lower-also due to the lower expected costs incurred for the port construction.
Enterprise Fund: Overall revenues in the enterprise fund are expected to be slightly less than the previous year by 2%. No anticipated changes are expected at this time which would materially affect the existing revenues.
The overall expenditures in the 20-21 budget are 3% lower than the previous year's budget. Personal services are approximately the same together with materials and supplies. The biggest variance is other services and charges with a 2% increase and capital outlay with an 8% increase. The largest expense in capital outlay is the road improvements being carried over from the previous year. A detail description of the capital outlay will be included as a separate narrative in the budget.
From the detail included in the budget, one can see that the cost to operate the various departments will remain approximately the same in the coming year with no foreseen loss of service provided to the citizens of the Town of Vidalia.
The projections in the hydro reserve fund are based on the previous year. Numerous factors are not known when preparing the budget. However, we have tried to predict with some degree of certainty the possibility of a rebate. The 20-21 budget recognizes a rebate of $1.2 million. We have also included legal expense in the budget to cover costs of reviewing the existing contract and providing legal assistance if needed.
We have attempted to present a budget to you in a format that will be helpful in your formulating a financial plan for the next budget year. The financial statement for the month of March 31, 2020, includes the proposed budget for a comparison.
Some items are not included in the budget. For instance, the budget does not include draws on the $7.0 million line of credit for the construction of the transmission line, any projects yet to be approved by the council members using the hydro royalty funds dedicated for projects, monies received in trust from the Riverfront Economic Development District to be used according to the terms of Cooperative Endeavor Agreement dated January 1, 2015, and reimbursements from FEMA for the 2019 flood or expenses incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic.
CAPITAL OUTLAY NARRATIVE
Street Department: The street department is requesting to purchase a new backhoe for $90k, two 1/2-ton pickup trucks for a total of $5Ok, and a new mosquito fogging machine for $10k. They need a backhoe, preferably new but would consider a good used one if available. They plan to keep the old backhoe as a spare. A new backhoe would not have as many breakdowns as a used piece. Two one-half ton trucks could be purchased on state contract for a reasonable amount of money to help in the rotation of vehicles for the street department. No trucks would be traded in since they can be used in other departments. A new mosquito fogging machine is needed to replace the 12-year-old machine currently being used for mosquito abatement.
Police Department: The police department is requesting a new golf cart for approximately $l0k. The golf cart would have multiple uses at events, such as parades, around town and would provide security and easy access around the riverfront for law enforcement personnel. Currently, the police department has two golf carts but only one works.
Fire Department: The fire department is requesting a portable building at the fire training facility. The existing building is in disrepair. A new one is needed for the guys to have a place to shelter from the weather and would provide a place to have training, restroom facilities, etc. The estimated cost is approximately $25k. The utility hookups are already available. The fire
department is also requesting approximately $150k to $160k to purchase three sets of turn out gear and oxygen tanks for the firemen. The existing gear will be expiring in less than a year. A total of 18 tanks will need to be replaced to be in compliance. First, they will try to find some of the gear at federal or state surplus which will buy them some time at a lower cost, then buy the remaining equipment new. This would save money and help them start a rotation on the equipment so that all 18 will not need to be purchased at one time in the future.
IT Department: The IT Department is requesting a total capital outlay amount of $99k. A portion of this is a carryover from the previous year for installation of fiber optics in strategic places around town. In addition, video conferencing equipment in the amount of $5k is needed for the IT center, and a rodder tool in the amount of $4k used for installing fiber optics is needed as well.
Recreation: The recreation district has a request to purchase a John Deere gator or a small all-terrain utility vehicle for $8k. This is also a carryover from previous years. One could be purchased under state contract for less than purchasing it used.
SPECIAL REVENUE FUND
City Court: The city court building is in need of mold removal, repairs and maintenance. The estimated cost with town labor used when possible is approximately $75k. This amount could be more or less depending on conditions found during the renovation. Previous estimates were $62k to $363k. City court is also asking for $7k for a new recording system. The present system is old and needs replacing. A good used one may be obtained from district court to help save money.
Sales Tax Fund: Highway improvements carried over from FYE 19-20 amounts to $1.5 million. This should complete the work which was delayed due to rising waters on the Mississippi River. Once the river recedes, the construction company will be able to get back to work and complete the construction during FYE 20-21.
Port Access Fund: The remaining cost to construct the Town of Vidalia New Barge Loading Facility has been going on for two years but due to the rising waters on the Mississippi River has not been completed as timely as planned. The remaining amount needed to complete the project with change orders is approximately $928k. No other work is included in the budget at this time. The next phase is still in the negotiating stages.
Convention Center: The convention center is in need of new audio visual equipment at an estimated cost of $66k, light upgrade for $6k, new partitions for $55,750, and a lawn mower for $8k. In order to stay competitive with other centers around the state, upgrades in technology are needed along with new partitions to replace those that are falling apart. The convention center is an asset to the town in many ways and it would be a waste not to maintain its competitive advantage to attract visitors to the town. The town currently has $272k in the Riverfront Development bank account that is strictly used for the convention center. The money has built over the past four years and is available to pay for these changes requested in the budget.
Utility Department: The utility department has requested $45k to build a new shop for the town's carpenter. The existing one needs replacing completely, and most of the construction will be provided by employees of the town. They also are requesting a bleach converter for approximately $70k, a ditch witch for $64k, a used bull dozer for $40, and a bucket truck engine for $26k. They also are asking for small tools which are included in the budget as a line item for small tools and equipment.