The Casper City Council on Tuesday approved a $153 million budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year that begins July 1, and with it a cautious sigh of relief.

"We all know that we are in a period where we are recovering, and we are in a better condition than we were a couple of years ago both as a community and as a city," Mayor Charlie Powell said after the regular meeting.

"It's easy to forget just how difficult things were just a few short years ago when we were diving into our reserves and eliminating positions and not giving people raises and it was a very difficult period of time," Powell said.

That belt-tightening, coupled with the efforts of City Manager Carter Napier and an improved economic outlook have yielded stability in a budget, a workforce, and maintenance responsibilities, he said.

But stability isn't necessarily solidity, because revenues for the general come primarily from the local property taxes and sales taxes received from the state, Powell said. "The problem we face locally is that we are so dependent on sales tax revenues, which can spike and dive so quickly."

The budget restores the $4.5 million borrowed from its reserves two years ago, which now gives the city its full 120-day emergency reserves. It also pays back $1.7 million to the state because a company outside Natrona County mistakenly put that money in the city's treasury, Powell said.

A budget highlight includes an allocation of $50,058,914 for personnel, an increase of $2.6 million or a 5% increase over the current budget. "This is reflective of added positions and reinstatement of step increases," according to a memo in the agenda for Tuesday's meeting from financial services director Tom Pitlick to Napier.

The budget had a few other recent changes approved by council:

  • An $89,838 increase in capital projects to fund community programs for upfront capital purchases.
  • A $421,000 transfer from the property and liability fund to the health insurance fund.
  • Approximately $610,000 for one-time payments to full- and regular part-time employees at $1,000 and $500 respectively to cover various federal withholdings including Social Security.
  • An increase in general fund support for the Casper Area Transportation Coalition by $43,000, and Optional One-Cent Sales Tax No. 16 support by $200,000 for CATC.
  • A $250,000 capital fund allocation for dog park improvements.

 

The city budgeted $17.2 million for capital projects including infrastructure and equipment purchases and upgrades. This marks an increase of $214,000, or a 1.3% increase over the 2018-2019 budget. The Optional One-Cent Sales Tax revenues pay for those capital expenses.

"I think people are going to be pleased when they see how much infrastructure improvements are going to take place this summer," Powell said. "There are literally road projects planned all over town, and they drive people crazy but that's how you have a good transportation system."

 

The General Fund, which covers the basic city operations, amounts to $49.3 million, a 6% increase of $2.8 million over the 2018-2019 budget

The basic operations include the offices of the city council, city manager, city attorney, municipal court, city clerk, financial services, human resources, planning, information technology, police and fire departments, code enforcement, engineering, streets, cemetery, Fort Caspar, parks, health social and community services, and the city campus.

The largest General Fund expenses are for:

  • Police Department -- $15.7 million.
  • Fire-EMS -- $9.4 million.
  • Streets -- $3.9 million.
  • Financial services -- $2.7 million.
  • Parks -- $2.0 million.
  • Information technology -- $1.5 million.
  • Health, social and community services -- $1.1 million.
  • Code enforcement -- $1.0 million.

 

The enterprise funds, essentially user fees paid by residents, cover most of the costs for these services:

  • Water -- $15.4 million.
  • Water treatment plant -- $3.3 million.
  • Sewer -- $7.6 million.
  • Wastewater treatment plant -- $14.2 million.
  • Refuse collection -- $7.6 million.
  • Balefill -- $9.7 million.
  • Casper Events Center -- $1.1 million.
  • Golf course -- $751,049.
  • Casper Recreation Center -- $1.4 million.
  • Aquatics -- $1.2 million.
  • Ice Arena -- $643,201.
  • Hogadon Ski Area -- $926,349.
  • Parking lots --  $35,418.

 

The city also has special revenue funds totaling over $4.5 million for weed and pest control, transit services, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, police grants, fire grants, the redevelopment loan fund, and the revolving land fund.

Internal services funds for fleet maintenance, buildings and structures, and property and liability insurance total $5.6 million.

The trust and agency funds total $12.4 million for perpetual care, Metro Animal Services, Public Safety Communications, and health insurance the latter of which amounts to $8.3 million.

The budget totals $153,025,216. and that total is reduced by $13.1 million after intergovernmental transactions.