City public works department plans to do more

SHERIDAN — Following the cautiously optimistic trend set in much of the city’s proposed fiscal year 2014-2015 budget, Public Works Director Nic Bateson presented a general fund budget request that was just over $400,000 higher than last year’s in a council work session Thursday.

The public works department accounts for approximately 28 percent of the city’s overall general fund budget with street operations comprising 40 percent of the department’s general fund budget.

Other divisions within the public works department funded by general fund revenues are administration, snow removal, the maintenance shop, parks and cemetery, engineering, building, planning/GIS and city hall.

The department uses funds from a variety of sources including building and planning revenues, gas tax, Capital Facilities Tax and Optional One-Cent Sales Tax revenues, public benefit funds from franchise agreements, and supplemental and concensus funding from the state.

The proposed general fund budget for fiscal year 2015 is $4.18 million compared to the fiscal year 2014 budget of $3.7 million.

“Overall, general fund revenue is up, and equally, our general fund expenditures are up,” Bateson said.

The increase in general fund revenue is due mainly to an increase in sales and use tax. The public works department will also be able to draw on increased gas tax revenues, building permit revenues and supplemental funding from state appropriations.

“With a couple of those individual revenue sources and the overall sales and use tax, yes, we plan on doing more,” Bateson said. “All the increased budgets that were presented today were not a result of additional staffing. It’s just a lot more materials, and supplies and professional services, so we look forward to getting a lot more done this next year for the community.”

The largest budget increase of more than $100,000 is for street operations, which was set at $1.69 million for fiscal year 2015 as opposed to $1.59 million last year. Bateson said the increased streets budget is due in great part to increased supplemental funding from the state, which can’t be used for salaries but can be used for materials and supplies.

“Like last year when I presented, we really want our supplemental to focus on ways that result in a reduction in our operating costs. When you talk about different things you can do to improve your equipment or improve your facilities with more energy efficiency, those are some of the tags that we like to do and get the result to reduce,” Bateson said.

The street operations budget also received a boost from the increased gas tax being applied directly to street maintenance and operation, Bateson said.

While revenue from building permits is traditionally hard to predict — it swung from nearly $800,000 in 2009 to $320,000 in 2010, back to nearly $700,000 in 2012 and down to $480,000 in 2013 — Bateson said trends in Sheridan indicate revenue will increase in coming years as more development occurs.

Conversations with builders, developers, Sheridan College, the school districts and the hospital indicate there are plans to construct around town, and commercial construction contributes a significant amount to building permit revenue, Bateson said.

Building permit revenue was set at $660,000 for fiscal year 2015, up from $580,000 for 2014.

As the economy improves, the public works department has decided to invest more in its parks and cemetery divisions, Bateson said. The parks department has budgeted to hire additional seasonal staff with hopes of increased park development and improvement, in addition to maintenance.

To wrap-up, Bateson also noted that the public works department will strive to increase revenue streams from public benefit funds by re-doing franchise agreements to make sure they include a public benefit payment. Franchise agreements allow private utilities to access city right-of-way in exchange for fees paid to the city.

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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