The Exeter City Council had its final budget review which included increases in the police department and parks and recreation budgets
EXETER – Due to extra revenue from the 1% Measure P sales tax increase, the Exeter City Council discovered they had room to fund key upgrades in this year’s budget.
The Exeter City Council met on Tuesday, June 14 to review the city’s two-year 2022-2023, 2023-2024 budget with major updates to the general fund and an ambitious capital improvement plan. The city council will be holding a public hearing on the budget at their next meeting on June 28.
The proposed updates to the general fund in fiscal year 2023 include a $336,400 increase to the police budget. The increase will mainly go to salary and benefit increases. The police department and general safety are the largest parts of the general fund with the police department taking 57.3% of the general fund’s expenditures. The police department is also receiving a $50,000 increase for operations improvements.
There will be a $195,900 increase to the parks department for the renovation of Unger Park and City Park. Parks and recreation will take up 9.4% of the general fund’s expenditures because of the proposed capital improvement plans as opposed to 3.6% in 2021.
The general fund anticipates a total increase of $807,747 or 16.8% between 2022 and 2023. 10% of the fund will go to salary and benefit increases for all city employees. Another 20% will be allocated for contract expenses.
The increase in revenue comes from the 1% sales tax that was enacted after Measure P was passed in November 2020. Sales tax, along with property taxes and utility user taxes, are the main source of revenue for the general fund. Measure P allowed the city to pay for code enforcement and some of the cost of recreation, which freed up funds for other areas and allowed for a balanced budget. Previously, public works had been taking care of code enforcement, but with the extra funding from Measure P, public works can be freed up to focus on utilities, infrastructure and maintenance.
According to Director of Finance Rainbow Moore, the key goals of the budget are keeping the general fund balanced and increasing general fund reserves. The 2021 fiscal year will finish with 56% of last year’s fund remaining in reserves and it is projected to have 70% remaining in reserves at the end of the 2023 fiscal year. She also focused on identifying how to continue forward with city operations in a sustainable manner, resuming recreation services and funding essential services in a way that will continue to improve the city’s operations.
Capital Improvement Plan
The projected 2023 enterprise fund for water, sewage and trash services includes budget increases to cover several capital improvement projects. This includes a $792,375 increase in water expenditures and a $114,174 increase in sewage expenditures from the last fiscal year to this fiscal year. On top of that, $2 million will go towards improving water and sewage reliability and decreasing vulnerabilities in the systems including reducing water leaks and improving sewer lift stations. One major purchase will be a new sewage cleaning truck for the sewage department, the funds for which are coming from the American Rescue Plan Act which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March of 2021.
There are 48 proposed capital improvement projects over the next five years. Approximately 40% of which are planned for the 2022-23 fiscal year, costing nearly $10 million. Proposed projects include replacing several city vehicles including Fire Engine 11, updating and repairing city buildings and improving roadways. After prior feedback, funds have been allocated for Christmas lights, the Concert In the Park series, the Economic Development Center and the Chamber of Commerce.