If Dothan’s proposed budget serves as any indication, Water World upgrades are just months away and a $35 million bond may follow for other projects.
Dothan City Manager Kevin Cowper and city finance director Lisa Reeder presented commissioners a budget plan for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years. The budget included $2.7 million for Water World upgrades in the 2020 fiscal year and outlined how the city would spend a $35.4 million bond for Honeysuckle Road corridor improvements and Rip Hewes Stadium upgrades.
City leaders said they have not committed to pursuing a bond issue but are considering the idea for long-term projects.
“Paying for cash on certain items or whether to float a bond are options that are out there,” Mayor Mark Saliba said. “I think on the really long-term items, like building a stadium or roadwork infrastructure, bond issues do make sense. We’ll be exploring all those.”
“As we get into the design of those projects and determine what our revenues are looking like, what our cost projections are, if there are any grant opportunities … we’ll have a better idea of what we need to borrow,” Cowper added.
The city’s finances will begin the biennial budget in strong shape following impressive sales tax growth in the current fiscal year. Reeder conservatively estimated the city will collect $71 million in sales tax revenue this year, about $9 million more than budget projections, while Cowper noted the collections could reach $74 million.
With sales tax accounting for about 67 percent of Dothan’s revenues, the sales tax boom has provided the city with a surplus it can use on some capital improvements.
The suggested improvements and anticipated costs have seemingly matched the sales tax growth.
The Dothan City Commission has conducted work sessions on improvements to the Honeysuckle Road corridor ($18 to $20 million), the city animal shelter ($3 to $4 million), Water World ($4.3 million for two phases), the construction of a track facility, and Rip Hewes Stadium renovations in the past year. The latter two, if combined, will cost about $14 million.
The proposed budget indicated that movement on Water World and a new animal shelter may occur soon.
The budget included $2.7 million for Water World upgrades that would cover a triple-flume slide fixture, a bowl slide amenity, renovations to the kiddie pool area, and some other improvements. It also included $100,000 in fiscal year 2020 for the design of an animal shelter, which officials hope to fund through a public-private partnership.
The budget did not include the Rip Hewes Stadium, track facility, and Honeysuckle Road corridor improvements – which involve the realignment and extension of the southern end to Campbellton Highway and the widening of the northern portion to five lanes. If the city were to pursue a bond, it could spend $15.4 million between the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years on the track and stadium improvements and $20 million on Honeysuckle Road in the next two fiscal years.
The commission has not approved any of the above projects, but could act on some of those suggestions soon. Saliba said commissioners continue to consider how and when to tackle each of the discussed projects.
“That’s the challenge of the commission: working together with the city manager and the department heads to determine which ones are items we really need to move forward with,” he said. “At the same time, we’re serving at the behest of our citizens – what are their needs, what are their wants and desires?
“We have to take all of that information and come up with the next four, five, or six items we’re going to start on.”
City financial leaders hope to submit the final budget to commissioners for a vote at its Sept. 3 meeting.