The City of Yuma will be working on a tight budget in 2018.

The Yuma City Council passed the first reading of the budget ordinance during its regular meeting, last week.

City leaders say the municipal government was looking at a significant deficit spending in the General Fund. They have said it is due to the expenditures needed last year for the Main Street Project and the airport runway project.

However, the deficit spending for 2018 has been cut roughly in half, to $212,255, through a series of bookkeeping moves — most notably the shuffling of parts of salaries from the General Fund to the various Enterprise Funds. For example, portions of salaries from the Clerk’s and City Manager offices has been switched to the Wastewater Fund to reflect the time spent by employees in those offices toward utility bills.

Also, the purchase of a new street sweeper, and its maintenance and operation, has been switched from the Street Department (part of the General Fund) to the Sanitation Enterprise fund, as well as a full-time salary to operate the sweeper.

“In general, we just moved things around to more appropriately spend money from Enterprise Funds, which should have been paying for things that were coming out of the General Fund,” City Manager Scott Moore told the council. He added the goal is to get back to a balanced budget by 2019.

The Police Department Budget was trimmed by more than $100,000 by eliminating the purchase of two patrol cars, and some other minor cuts.

Moore also addressed utility rate increases planned for 2018. He said rate increases for water and trash will be visited in January, and will wait on the wastewater rate until July in order to allow utility customers to ease into the higher rates.

The total General Fund is set at $2.8 million, including $212,255 in surplus. The Electric Fund is set at $2.93 million, Water Fund $904,710, Wastewater Fund $625,965, Ambulance Fund $490,825, Sanitation Fund $407,350, Capital Projects Account $303,000, Sales/Use Tax Bond Fund $188,046, Conservation Trust Fund $40,000, and Firemen’s Pension Fund $24,000.

Mayor Joe Harper said he appreciated the hard work put in by the city staff on the budget. Moore said many people were involved, including the city attorney

The council voted 5-0 on the first reading of the budget ordinance. In attendance at last week’s meeting were Harper and councilmen Dan Baucke, Jim Haag, Ron Swehla and Steve Hoch. Council members Bethleen McCall and Luke Goeglein were absent.

In other budget-related actions, the council approved the first reading of the mill levy ordinance, setting the levy for 2018 at 30.291 mills, which would raise $620,000 based on the assessed value within the city of Yuma of $21.77 million. City Clerk Karma Wells explained the numbers will change after the Yuma County government certifies the 2018 assessed valuation at the end of November. The final mill levy will be included in the ordinance’s second reading at the December 5 meeting.

An ordinance amending the 2017 budget also was approved on first reading. The Reserve/Capital Project Fund reserves will be different than originally budgeted. The council was told that mainly was due to the Main Street Project still being on the books since the city has not signed on off on final completion yet. The comprehensive plan and airport master plan also come out of that budget. The change is from $301,000 to $1.008 million. The Ambulance Fund was amended due to an extra staff position added in 2017 that was approved by the council, increasing from $363,775 to $450,000. Also needing amended is the Debt Service Fund increasing from $189,000 to $189,153 due to refinancing of the wastewater treatment plant revenue bonds in 2017.

Animal ordinance

The second reading of the revised animal ordinance was passed without any comment. Anything referring to cats was eliminated from the final document, except in regards to licensing. (The council discussed at its previous meeting about having a separate ordinance in regards to cats.)

The ordinance is to include an increase of the annual licensing fee from $1 to $5. The municipal judge will be given some leeway in regards to whether or not a dog should be destroyed in relation to a vicious dog offense.

The ordinance allows the city to charge the owner with cruelty after the third dog-at-large citation, and ask the judge to remove the animal from the owner’s care.

The ordinance also states an impoundment fee has to be paid upfront if an owner wants to retrieve their animal, rather than it being part of the judicial process. The full language of the ordinance can be found inside this edition in the Public Notices section at City Hall.

More meeting

• The council unanimously approved a resolution amending the professional services agreement with James H. Pedersen concerning the comprehensive plan update. The amendment only extends the time of the contract, not the money amount. The council and Yuma Planning Commission was having a workshop with Pedersen this past Tuesday, November 28, at 3 p.m., to continue work on the comprehensive plan. The planning commission had requested several changes to the document at a hearing about one month ago prior to recommending to the council to approve the final document.

• A resolution replacing the FPPA Deferred Compensation Plan and adopting the FPPA Multi-Employer Deferred Compensation Plan was approved on a 5-0 vote. The plan is for police officers.

• A resolution amending the city employee’s flexible spending account was approved unanimously. The change was necessitated due to a change by the IRS.

• City Attorney Kathryn Sellars told the council the city was about to close on the Miller property, and the city will take ownership in January if all goes as planned. The property, near the Yuma Fire Hall, will be utilized by the Yuma Volunteer Fire Department for storage.

• City staffers and council members reported receiving favorable comments in regards to the new soccer field at City Park, and the Christmas decorations.