council looks ahead to 2020

Mason City Council approved the 2020 budget at the end of 2019. The budget is a guide to spending for the year and identifies major projects and initiatives, supports ongoing operations, guides service levels, and more.

Revenue estimates, capital project lists, service levels, fuel and supply costs, benefits, and a host of other factors figure into the budget. Careful thought is put into the budget as it is created. The result is a semi-flexible plan that allows for changes to be made as needs, priorities, or revenues change. At the same time, it is firm enough to provide the city staff with a basis on which to schedule projects and services.

budget overview

Perhaps most noteworthy in the 2020 budget is a heightened emphasis on future budget stabilization through “set aside” funds for leveling out future budget cycles that provides flexibility to better align purchases with the market.

The 2020 Budget includes over $23 million for capital projects and equipment; $20.8 million for capital projects; $2.3 million for vehicle replacement and $182,900 for other equipment. Compared to the 2019 Budget of $32 million for capital projects and equipment; $29.4 million for capital projects; $2.7 million for vehicle replacement, and $141,150 for other equipment.  The decrease of $9 million is related to the Municipal Aquatic Center project authorized in 2019. Below are some of the key projects identified in the 2020 budget.

Some of the City’s strategies for conservative revenues include: budgeting income tax revenues at $34 million-at the 2018 actual receipts level after adjusting down for the extraordinary payments for business net profits, zero local government funds from the State and no additional revenues from local job growth despite anticipated increases.  General Fund personnel and operating expenses have increased slightly at 1%. General Fund transfers include $3.4 million for the Safety Fund’s portion of the income tax. The Community Center Fund’s revenue and expenses increased to realign the activity to match the ongoing success of the Community Center. The operating budgets for the eight major operating funds reflect a 1% increase over the 2019 Budget. The City’s outstanding debt is anticipated to increase by $22 million for the aquatic center and golf course improvement while decreasing by almost $6.5 million.

The 2020 Budget continues to fine-tune financials of the Campus Safety program and partnerships that underpin it.  The recent success in reducing over-time expenses within the Fire Department has allowed the 2020 budget to include funds to explore limited staffing models for a third medic to possibly reduce response times during peak activity.

The budget continues to be based on conservative practices, which have helped the City for long-term financial health, even when economic downturns occur. Nineteen full-time positions remain vacant throughout the organization. Next year, the City will continue its work to fill vacant positions by continuing to evaluate operations and strategically sharing resources across departments that may lead to additional retitling of positions to better reflect responsibilities.

Similar to past years, the City will continue the strategy to not schedule individual vehicles for replacement, but to rely on contingency amounts to more closely align vehicle failure with replacement. This practice of budgeting a “replacement reserve” for equipment allows greater flexibility and enhanced timing for possible equipment replacements. The City now has a reserve set aside that could accommodate outstanding “scheduled” replacement of City fleet. The 2020 Budget includes over $2 million to be set aside for vehicle and equipment needs including over $1.5 million carried over from prior years.

With the success of this reserve strategy for vehicle replacement, the City has initiated a similar practice for street resurfacing in 2020 by budgeting $1 million for the annual street program and an additional $2 million set aside to either enhance the program based on good market prices or continue to build a reserve for the future in more aggressive years of street resurfacing. The 2020 Budget includes $8 million to be set aside for street resurfacing including $5 million carried over from prior years. The target is to gradually build a significant enough reserve to maintain the City’s 477 streets (364 lane miles) while keeping annual funding amounts level despite peaks in annual programs.

The 2020 budget continues to set a very aggressive work schedule and the City fully expects that some projects may be slowed or delayed as staff’s attention is on the construction and opening of the new Aquatic Center. Opening of the new Aquatic Center as well as Common Ground at Makino Park will require adjustment as operating and maintenance decisions are made and activity begins.  Both the operating and capital budgets are underpinned by conservative financials allowing the flexibility to adjust to meet changing priorities or unanticipated opportunities.

SR 741 / Parkside Intersection Improvements (Re-alignment) $5,500,000
Central Parke Blvd Extension (Financial Way to Western Row Road) $900,000
Mason-Lebanon Trail Connection $725,000
Western Row Road Interchange Landscaping Enhancement $750,000
Snider Road Widening Design (WRR to 42) $400,000
Church Street Drainage Improvements/Frank & Miller Design $300,000
Indianwood Storm Sewer Improvements $300,000
Sports Center Complex Drive Bridge Replacement $275,000
US 42 Roundabouts – R/W Acquisition $250,000
Safety/Service Center Annex Improvements $220,000
Makino Park Improvements $200,000
SR 741/Kings Mills Streetscape Design $150,000
Municipal Bldg N&S Basin Retrofits $150,000

There are several projects/initiatives that have been proposed, evaluated or currently in the pipeline, whereby funds were included in the 2020 Budget as placeholders.  The following are key projects that need additional planning:

Municipal Aquatic Center Parking, Equipment, & 50 Meter Improvements $2,200,000
Golf Course Infrastructure Improvements (bunkers, irrigation, tees, etc.) $2,000,000
Community Center Area Development/Improvements $500,000
Pine Hill Lake Park Improvements $200,000
Downtown Development Contingency $170,000

The 2020 Budget also includes continuation of aggressive annual repair and maintenance programs.  Highlights are outlined below.

Annual Repair & Maintenance Programs
Street Maintenance Base $1,000,000
Street Maintenance Set-aside $2,000,000
Street Maintenance Striping/Bike Paths $150,000
Facilities Paving, Sealcoating $300,000
Water Reclamation Plant/Sewer $961,000
Citywide Storm Sewer Maintenance $250,000
Telephone Server Replacement $125,000
Annual Sidewalk/Curb Replacement $110,000
Community Center Paving, Sealcoating $80,000
Park Improvement & Redevelopment $75,000
Service Center Set-aside $75,000
Citywide Monument Signs $50,000