Dothan Commissioners are expected to approve a two-year budget Tuesday that projects a tiny increase in revenue for 2014 and 2015, and authorizes more than $1.3 million in payments to Dothan’s two new libraries.
While the local economy seems to be slowly improving, city officials are, for the most part, budgeting conservatively. Just as revenue projections for 2012 and 2013 were made with a hazy economic outlook, the same is true for the next two years.
Dothan’s 2012 and 2013 budgets projected yearly tax revenue of $64,450,000. While the city is on pace to exceed projections comfortably in 2013, the anticipated revenue in 2014 and 2015 has increased only slightly, to $64,765,000 annually.
The 2014 and 2015 budget builds in increases for the Police and Fire departments when compared to the past two years. In fiscal year 2013, the Dothan Police Department was allocated $17.2 million and will receive just more than $19 million each year in 2014 and 2015. The Fire Department received about $12.8 million in 2013 and is set to receive just more than $14.1 million in 2014 and 2015.
Facility/maintenance allocations are also about $600,000 higher. One of Dothan’s top priorities has been the maintenance/repair of the city’s aging facilities.
Allocations to agencies rise by more than $2 million, much of which comes from a promised $.13 million allocation to Dothan’s two new libraries. A new branch library at Westgate Park and a newly constructed library downtown will open soon.
The increase in allocations pushes expenses past projected general fund revenues by about $5.5 million. The budget will be balanced by an estimated transfer of about $5.5 million from the utility fund. Electric, water and sewer sales and fees are estimated to exceed revenues by about $13 million for each of the next two years. Along with the $5.5 million to the general fund, another $4.4 million will go to retire debt and about $3.7 million will go to the city schools fund.
City Manager Mike West has said conservative revenue projections are wise during an uncertain economy. Although revenues have exceeded projections in 2013, it is difficult to predict that will continue in 2014 and 2015. The budget is expected to continue to be strained through additional expenditures related to a comprehensive overhaul of the city’s sewer system, maintenance of aging city buildings and a probable construction of a new landfill.
Meanwhile, the Commission will decide soon whether to move forward with new capital projects such as a therapeutic pool at Westgate Park, recreational pool at Andrew Belle Center and softball complex at the new Jim Oates Park.
Follow Lance Griffin on Twitter @EagleLance