PRINCETON — The city of Princeton’s budget may not be where he wants it, but it is heading in the right direction, City Manager Jeff Clawson said at Thursday’s special meeting and budget planning discussion of the Princeton City Council.
During the nearly two-hour meeting, Clawson went through each of the budget funds, saying the goal is to have each fund able to sustain itself without needing transfers from other city funds. He likes the trend he is seeing with interfund transfers becoming less and individual funds able to pay more of their own expenses.
The big issue before the city is needed capital projects, most specifically funding for sanitary sewer upgrades in various areas, including South Church Street and the Bailey subdivision, Clawson said, the proposed budget does have $400,000 for sanitary sewer projects, but that money is just a start and not enough to do all that’s needed.
In his comments, Mayor Keith Cain said the city’s sanitary system does need to be updated, but the city also needs to crackdown on people who are illegally connecting their sump pumps to the city’s lines. There is a lot of water being pumped into the city system. The city might be surprised to see how much relief the lines would get, if there weren’t the extra sump pumps connected, the mayor said.
Clawson said enforcing an illegal connections plan would not be a popular decision. As a compromise, the city could offer some kind of financial incentive and time frame to encourage residents to voluntarily cooperate, he said.
In other capital projects in the proposed budget, the Princeton Police Department would get nine new squad cars in the new year. Seven of the nine vehicles to be replaced have more than 100,000 miles on them, and maintenance costs are increasing with $25,000 spent last year on maintenance, Police Chief Tom Root said.
On Friday, Clawson said since the city has not been able to replace any of the vehicles for several years; the city has received a strong trade-in proposal from Prescott Brothers in Princeton, making it possible for the city to lease/purchase all nine new vehicles together in the next fiscal year.
The estimated total cost is $200,000 for all nine vehicles, Clawson said. The city will pay $50,000 in this first year (2014-15), $50,000 in the second year (2015-16) and $100,000 in the third year (2016-17). These are approximate numbers, but the split was recommended by him, and the council agreed, Clawson said.
Originally there was $90,000 in the proposed budget for new squad cars this year, but by lowering that amount to $50,000 for the 2014-15 year, the city will be able to add $40,000 to its street repair budget. Also, by lowering the first year payment, the city will balance its overall lease payments, keeping the payment amounts more consistent from year to year.
In the fire department fund, the proposed budget includes increases in ambulance rates for residents and non-residents. There will also be a non-transport refusal fee to offset expenses to the city during a call in which the department is dispatched to render help, but the victim ultimately refuses transport, Fire Chief Chuck Woolley said. This non-transport refusal fee would only affect non-residents, defined as anyone living outside Princeton or any community with which the city contracts its services, Woolley said.
The city council will have a first reading of the proposed budget at its April 7 meeting with final approval expected at its April 21 meeting.
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