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City in good fiscal shape

August 29, 2018

The City of Beatrice’s budget is holding steady and officials don’t see any major changes for the fiscal year.

The City Council got an overview of the budget during Monday night’s work session, where city administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer discussed what the city can expect.

“Things are going well,” he said. “There are not any big changes. We’re not worrying about how many people are going to be laid off and at the same time we’re not growing so fast that you can’t keep up with it. That would be a good problem to have but we’re working on getting there.”

The city sets its budget for two years and is in the middle of that cycle. The budget for the fiscal year was largely set last year, and little is expected to change.

A minor increase to the tax levy is expected and the roughly one cent would generate an additional $17.70 in taxes on a $100,000 of property valuation.

None of the utility departments, electric, water and waste pollution control, are expecting rate increases this year.

The electric department has more than $5 million in cash reserves, prompting councilman Ted Fairbanks to ask if rates should be decreased or refunds given to rate payers.

“At what point do you say we need to reduce the rates, not just hold them steady either reduce the rates or give some of this money back to the rate payers?” he said. “This is an enormous amount of money to have in cash reserves.”

While the figure is significant (the city’s own unrestricted cash reserve fund has around $1.9 million available), Tempelmeyer said it’s a good amount to have available for the electric department.

“These guys are about where the electric department should be at,” he said. “Yes, it is a significant amount of money. At the same time their equipment is very expensive. If you would lose a substation to a tornado or something you would need a substantial amount of money to repair those kind of things quickly.”

Additionally, Beatrice is planning a split with Nebraska Public Power District as its energy provider. Tempelmeyer said the city may look at reducing the cash reserves once that transition is complete.

“As we move away from NPPD and as we see those savings come into play what we’d really like to do is make sure those savings are what we think they will be,” he said. “We’ve run the projections, we’ve run the calculations, we’d like to make sure they prove out. If you get a year from now and then the projections are what we think they’ll be, maybe look at some kind of refund the first year and move toward a rate reduction or some other type of program.”

Total revenues for the city are higher than anticipated, largely because of a $650,000 settlement for the gas plant cleanup downtown.

Expenses are expected to be down in the coming fiscal year in part due to more projects in 2018, including improvements at Hannibal Park.

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