Prospective budget for 2023-24 looks promising for Highland, city manager reports
Highland will show a surplus of more than $1 million under the proposed budget for 2023-24.
City Manager Chris Conrad presented the proposed budget last week to the city council and said the surplus is indicative of the staff’s efforts to transition from new infrastructure construction to existing maintenance, as well as setting aside funds for future projects.
“As we moved on from the issues related to the pandemic, this past year we managed through a period of historic inflation that impacted all facets of our operating expenses,” Conrad said. “Our diverse sources of revenue and conservative approach to budgeting have continued to protect us from making impactful decisions mid-year, but the impact of inflation has exacerbated the issue of the rate of revenue growth to expense growth.”
Conrad said they have managed the rising costs associated with inflation by delaying hiring, attrition, and delaying purchases and capital projects. The budget has a 0% increase in operating and maintenance expenditures, coupled with an estimated 1% increase in revenue. Total expenses are down 4% from last year’s budget, Conrad said.
“This conservative management approach has served the city well in the past and has us in a very solid financial position to weather broader economic fluctuations,” he said.
Among the highlights:
With the construction of the new public safety building and remodel of Fire Station 1 competed, the police and fire/EMS departments are refocusing on training and equipment. The police department completed its consolidation with Madison County 911 service and has implemented body cams ahead of the schedule required by the state, as well as acquiring a K-9 unit for the department. Police Chief Carole Presson said she plans to have some of her officers trained to be trainers in the new subjects required by law, so that they can train their own rather than having to send officers out to be trained.
Public Works has finished its trunk main rehabilitation project, and will “take a break” this year to set aside funds for more projects in 2025. Street and alley repairs will continue for pavement and curbs throughout the city, and the Matter Drive reconstruction project should be completed during this budget year.
Highland’s internal electric company will continue to migrate the entire system to smart meters for maintenance and billing efficiency.
Parks and recreation is in maintenance mode, monitoring personnel costs due to increases in the minimum wage, while continuing to research options for the outdated swimming pool. The inclusion of Glik Park and the Korte Recreation Center in the new business district opens up potential revenue streams for some deferred maintenance, according to the report.
Community Development continues to evaluate derelict buildings for potential demolition, and using incentive agreements and the facade improvement program to rehabilitate existing buildings.
Conrad said in addition to the various challenges mentioned, there are continual shifts in funding sources from the state that make budgeting “a little more complex than normal.”
“I was very proud of the flexibility and efforts of the city staff,” he said.