Casper Slashes Budget By 37 Percent For 2016-2017; Public Won’t See Cuts In Basic Services
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Casper City Council on Tuesday approved a budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year that cut spending by 37 percent from the current fiscal year without directly affecting the basic city services of police, fire and infrastructure.
The new budget, which takes effect July 1, copes with the economic downturn accompanied by a sharp drop in sales tax and minerals revenues'
The proposed budget is more than just about money, McDonald said.
"The prominent feature of the 2017 budget is the establishment of a long-term fiscal plan for the general fund," he said. "We are able to do that because of the reserve and general funds."
But the budget cuts are still severe.
Expenditures for fiscal year 2016-2017 will amount to $129.4 million (excluding internal transactions), which is a 37 percent or $74.6 million decrease from the current budget of $204 million, McDonald said.
The capital budget will be $26.4 million, a 73 percent or $72.7 million decrease from the current budget of $99.1 million.
The proposed total personnel budget is $47.8 million, which is 1.0 percent, or $0.3 million less than the current budget of $48.1 million. (More details can be found in the council's agenda for Tuesday's meeting.)
So here's the expense breakdown by categories:
General Fund, which includes basic services such as police, fire, administration: $45.3 million. This marks a 14 percent decrease of $7.4 million from the current fiscal year.
Capital Projects Funds, which includes projects paid for by Optional One-Cent Sales Tax revenues: $19.5 million
Enterprise Funds, which includes utilities such as water, sewer, wastewater treatment, refuse collection, the bale fill; and recreation funds the Casper Events Center, golf course, recreation center, aquatics and Hogadon Ski area: $59.3 million. These are mostly funded by user fees.
Special Revenue Funds, including weed and pest control, Community Development Block Grant funds, transit services, Metropolitan Planning Organization, and special reserves: $6.8 million.
Debt Services Funds, which includes special assessments: $1,029.
Internal Services Funds, which includes fleet maintenance, information technology, and property and liability insurance: $8.4 million.
Trust & Agency Funds, which includes perpetual care for city buildings, Metro Animal Services, public safety communications, and health insurance: $16 million.
The total expenditures amount to $155.4 million. Duplications and transactions of monies reduces the total by $26.0 million. So the net expenditures amount to $129.4 million.
The city will continue to reduce its full-time staffing through the next fiscal year, with the elimination of 47 full-time positions through attrition and an early retirement program.
City officials are working with departments to help staff not be overstressed as they do more work with fewer employees, McDonald said.
Here's the general breakdown by revenues:
The city anticipates total revenues of $148.4 million -- including transactions among city funds -- with an additional $8.0 million of reserves to be spent.
The major revenue streams are sales tax revenues, minerals taxes, property taxes and franchise fees. The sales tax revenues and minerals taxes are state-shared revenues and come back to Casper, McDonald said.
Hints of the serious downturn began a year ago, and the city implemented a hiring freeze, he said.
But sales tax revenues, the main driver of the city's income, plummeted about $7.3 million or 30 percent less than expected, he said. The 2016-2017 budget projects another $761,000 decline in sales tax revenues.
The deficit hovered around 40 percent as of February but didn't change much after that, McDonald said. "It has leveled out."
But the city will still need to tap its savings, he said.
Seventeen years ago, city council established a reserve fund to carry the city through boom and bust cycles, and avoid abrupt changes in services, he said.
"Local government cannot stop delivering services when economic conditions decline, unless those declines are catastrophic," McDonald said. "What local government must do during decline is prioritize service levels and adjust to available resources, which in itself is challenging because a city is defined geographically and service levels may not necessarily be correlated to population."