Aldermen hear 'wish lists' during 2015 budgeting process
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 1:00 AM
City department heads gave an overview of their "wish lists" for fiscal 2015 before the Philadelphia Mayor and Board of Aldermen during their first of several sessions before adopting a new budget in September.
The budgeting process was to continue last night during the board's first meeting in August.
In addition, at the request of City Clerk James Johnson, aldermen looked at ways to pay off a $4 million Tax Increment Financing (TIF) loan and two cap loans, one for a new ladder truck and the other for the rescue truck.
Johnson said paying off one or more loans would save the city money on interest in the future.
The TIF loan was secured for park improvements and for infrastructure on Mississippi 16 prior to the Lowe's development.
Currently the city has paid off half of the TIF loan and has approximately $1.4 million in savings for the remainder.
"It would take about $950,000 more to pay off the TIF," Johnson said, noting the money would most likely be taken out of the approximately $3.6 million in CDs the city currently has.
If the city decided to go with this option then it would save about $300,000 in interest over the next six years, Johnson said.
Johnson said the city would only save about $33,000 in interest over the next several years if it paid off the cap loans on the new ladder or rescue trucks.
The city currently owes approximately $303,000 on the ladder truck but would save $14,000 in interest over five years if paid off this fiscal year.
The city owes approximately $246,000 on the rescue truck and would save $19,000 in interest if paid off.
Johnson noted however that the city is under no obligation to pay off either the TIF or the cap loans right now.
"The annual payment [on the TIF] is due in September," he said. "Doing this [annually], it will be paid off by 2020."
The cap loans have similar dates with the ladder truck due to be paid for by March 2019 and the rescue truck by March 2022.
Aldermen did not make a decision on any of their three options.
Ward 1 Alderman Josh Gamblin said he wanted to see all the numbers before making any decision.
"We don't want to be premature," he said.
Aldermen talked briefly after the city's millage rate for fiscal 2015 but made no commitments.
During FY 2014, the board voted 3-2 to increase mills from 10 to 20.
This was done to fund the $7.4 million 2014 budget and to close a more than $500,000 shortfall for fiscal 2013, aldermen said at the time.
During the budget meeting, Ward 2 Alderman Jim Fulton was the first to bring up the millage rate, which saw little discussion.
Mayor James Young, however, said the board would have to see where they were at budget-wise.
Ward 4 Alderman Cecil Nichols was the second to bring up millage near the end of the workshop.
"I want to look at it," he said.
Alderman Gamblin agreed with Nichols, saying with the sales tax, the millage and all other options needed to be looked at.
"I'm interested in paying the TIF off but I want to look at all the number first," he said.
Fulton and Gamblin were the only two dissenting votes in the decision to raise the millage rate last year.
The rest of the meeting consisted of each department head presenting their yearly budget requests.
Police Chief Grant Myers made several requests, including four new police cars to replace the current older models, new crime software and computers with an updated operating system.
Fire Chief Pierce Clark asked for new hoses, turnout gear for his men, rope gear and two new computers. He also asked for an icebox to replace one that broke several years ago and new day room furniture for Fire Station 1.
Clark also told the board that with the increased interest in the bypass it would be advantageous for the city to relocate Fire Station 3 to the bypass. He added that the empty station could be used by another city department, such as Animal Control who has been looking into getting a new, larger building.
"That would solve two problems," he said.
Rusty Holley with the Street Department said told aldermen his department needed a new vehicle. Larry McKinney with Animal Control did not request any additions to his budget for FY 2015.
Municipal Court Clerk Denise Refre asked for a pay raise for Judge Steve Cumberland and said she needed another fulltime worker in her department to help reduce the backlog in fines.
Aldermen discussed a fulltime warrant officer in the police department, including the possibility of a warrant officer essentially paying for himself by collecting warrants.
Building Inspector Jay Eakes asked if police secretary Sherrie Action, who is looking for a fulltime job, could be moved into his office for clerical work while maintaining her workload with the police department.
The board took that suggestion, and all others, under advisement.
They will be put all the requests on the next preliminary budget," Johnson said.