MANSFIELD — As in previous years, the city will face the challenge in the coming weeks of deciding which capital projects to fund with a limited supply of money.
Mansfield’s general fund has about $1.1 million in unrestricted funds, and city departments have requested just over $4 million in capital expenditures this year, money spent to purchase or extend the term life of existing assets.
As of January 1, the general fund had about $5.6 million carried over from last year and estimated revenue is about $26.5 million, according to figures provided by the finance department. But most of that money will likely be spent on operations, which are expected to top estimated revenue by about $4.2 million.
Linn Steward, chief financial officer, delivered the same message on Monday as last year.
“I say this every year, but if we budget our revenue appropriations, that $5.6 million that we start with, that could be used for capital and one-time projects,” Steward said in a discussion. on the 2020 Budget in the city council’s finance committee. “We are not financially responsible for having our credits so far into the red.”
“That’s where the problem is; we’re overspending, we’re not staying within our means. If it’s up to the state to come back – and they might because we’re headed in that direction – you’re going to have to budget to estimated revenue.”
The final 2020 budget is expected to be approved by the board on March 18.
The city has assumed that income tax revenue will be 5% higher than estimated, based on a five-year forecast. “That’s been the trend for the last two years,” Steward said.
But despite figures showing Mansfield is set to collect more revenue than in previous years, the credits are straining the budget. “We’re barely staying within our means. It’s not an income issue — our income is constantly growing — it’s an expense issue,” Steward said.
This pressure makes it increasingly difficult for departments to upgrade or replace aging equipment.
For one, the Mansfield Police Division needs 10 new patrol cruisers, Chief Keith Porch said. Instead, he asked for six, which would cost around $177,858. The ministry requested four cars last year and did not receive them.
There are 25 patrol cars marked. On average, they are seven years old with a mileage of 93,745 miles. The oldest car in the fleet is 15 years old. One has covered 142,781 miles.
The service could be affected if his department doesn’t receive new cars, Porch said.
“If they become unreliable or prohibitively expensive that we can’t fix, I will have no choice but to overtake agents per car,” Porch said, adding that car repairs cost more. what they are worth.
The police department also now has a policy that if cars with dash cams are available, officers are welcome to use them. “In turn, that had the effect of having these cars running 24/7,” Porch said.
Additionally, Porch requested 15 desktop computers ($24,000) and five in-vehicle computers ($27,500). He said the IT department recently told him that 82 computers in the department were running Windows 7 and needed to be updated to Windows 10.
The Mansfield Fire Department requested $624,000 in down payment. Jim Bishop, deputy fire chief, said the department needed EMS equipment, self-contained breathing apparatus cylinders and units, nozzles, response equipment and a hose.
“Right now we couldn’t buy a helmet if we needed to buy a helmet,” Bishop said.
Lori Cope, director of security services, estimated that $2.5 million had been removed from the list of requests from police and fire departments. Even with this reduction, the departments collectively requested approximately $2 million in capital.
But even though there’s $1.1 million that could be split among city departments, Steward cautioned against overspending, saying unexpected costs hit the city every year.
“In 2017 we needed $600,000 from unrestricted funds, in 2018 we needed $186,000, then in 2019 we needed almost $500,000,” Steward said. “So $1.1 million isn’t a lot.”
3rd District Councilor Van Harlingen said the city had grants to help pay for police and fire departments when Mansfield emerged from a fiscal emergency about six years ago. “I can see where it’s starting to catch up to us a bit,” he said.
Van Harlingen suggested that the state and federal government take a share of the city’s revenue.
“Even though our income has grown steadily for the most part, we continue to lose out to someone else over whom we have no control,” Van Harlingen said.
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Only $307,083 was spent on capital expenditures last year while departments requested about $2.3 million in total. This money was used to buy a snow plow truck ($210,000), evidence lockers ($19,000), a server migration project ($30,000) and a video indictment system ($30,000 ) to the municipal court.
For the 2020 budget, Steward recommended that about $68,000 be transferred to the fiscal stabilization fund, or rainy day fund. Approximately $230,024 is needed to reach 100% of the target balance calculated for this year, or $5,230,024.
“If we don’t try to continue to make efforts to follow what our policy says, it could affect our credit rating, interest rates could be higher for bonds that we might buy,” Steward said. .
About 62.4% of general fund income is expected to be transferred to other funds. About $15.5 million will be transferred to the security services fund, nearly $2 million more than last year.
Compared to the 2020 temporary budget, appropriations for security services have increased by approximately $1 million. Factors contributing to the increase include FOP command and patrol contracts ($400,000), fire compensation time conversion ($100,000), fire overtime ($80,000), transfers to the fire capital equipment fund ($101,000), transfers to the separation fund ($115,000), and income tax refunds ($162,000).