News

Budget discussion leads to possible utility increases

GTNS photo by David Hotle

Winfield City Council members Ryan Kinneberg, Janet Reynolds and Jennifer Wade look over a draft of the proposed city budget for the coming fiscal year.
GTNS photo by David Hotle Winfield City Council members Ryan Kinneberg, Janet Reynolds and Jennifer Wade look over a draft of the proposed city budget for the coming fiscal year.

WINFIELD — Initial budget discussions showing a revenue shortfall in several funds may lead to an increase in the rate of water, sewer and gas for residents during the coming year.

Winfield City Council member Ryan Kinneberg suggested a 3 percent increase in water and sewer rates and a 1.5 percent increase in gas during a budget work session Wednesday evening. The other council members agreed although no action was taken. A draft ordinance for the increase will be presented during the council’s April meeting.

“People need to understand the increase in utility rates will keep them from getting an increase in the tax rate,” Kinneberg said. “I don’t like having to raise rates, but sometimes it is needed.”

According to City Clerk Angie Oepping, the rates of the utilities had not increased in about 10 years. She commented the price of salaries and repairs go up.

The initial budget the council considered during the workshop showed $1,559,320 in expenses and $1,564,218 in revenues. A proposed increase for the year in the tax rate would be .00128 cent. The rate will be $10.99552 per $1,000 of taxable valuation. Oepping said she is working with a new accounting system to create the budget and the draft budget used for discussion during the workshop is incomplete. When the council reviews the budget for approval during its Feb. 13 meeting, the budget will include everything, and revenue from the utility rates will be added.

Mayor Chris Finnell said overall the budget meeting had gone well. He commented the council had discussed increasing utility rates during last year’s budget workshop. He said prices are going up and small increases in rates done over time are easier to work with than large raises done all at once.

Oepping commented after the meeting that setting the budget is a “guessing game” because the city doesn’t know how much it will receive in revenues or how many expenses it would have.

During discussion, the council also discussed expenses in the Winfield Library. According to Oepping, the library takes in about $18,000 per year and spends about $83,000 per year. Finnell said he would discuss the situation with the library board.

A draft budget was discussed during the workshop. The proposed agenda will be presented to the city council for approval during the Feb. 13 meeting for acceptance. If approved the budget will be printed in the newspaper no later than Feb. 26 for a public hearing on the budget during the council’s March 8 meeting.