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Monett City officials review budget projections

Friday, June 12, 2009

(Photo)
Downtown Monett
Consistently lower than expected sales tax revenues this year led the Monett City Council to take a hard look at its budget projections this week. City Administrator Dennis Pyle told council members that if economic trends do not improve, the city could be headed toward a significant financial shortfall.

However, three unbudgeted sources of revenue appear likely to pull the city out of a budget crisis, at least for the current fiscal year.

According to Pyle, the city budget projected sales tax income for fiscal year 2009-10, beginning on April 1, would run 3 percent lower than in the previous year. Estimates lowered the total general fund income by $100,000.

Over the first five months of 2008, sales tax income for the city has been down by 9.9 percent, Pyle reported. Three months into the current calendar year, sales tax is down by 10.9 percent, a consistent trend.

In addition, Pyle said the city has had $25,159 in unbudgeted expenses this year. Costs came from completing the Fifth Street parking lot, where the old police station had been, and in purchasing a new thermal imaging camera for the fire department.

Revenue from motor fuel taxes has also been down for the quarter. Taking a worst case scenario, Pyle multiplied the revenue dip across the rest of the year. Should summer travel not reverse the trend, the city could see a drop of motor fuel tax income by $24,000 for the year, he said.

If sales tax maintained a 10 percent decline for the rest of the year, adding in the extra purchases and motor tax dip would leave the general revenue fund with a shortfall of almost $272,500 for the year.

The city has had one unexpected source for revenue to help offset the declines, Pyle reported, and two more possibilities in the offing.

The Missouri Department of Transportation has reimbursed the city an additional $55,266 for work on Cleveland last year. Pyle said there had been no certainty the payment would come.

In addition, a settlement is getting closer on the class action lawsuit over underpayment of land-line taxes by AT&T. The same lawsuit brought a major settlement last year over unpaid cell phone taxes. Pyle said it was very likely the land-line settlement will be reached this year. If so, Monett's portion was estimated at nearly $123,000.

One of the outstanding cases over unpaid cell phone taxes is against Alltel. Pyle said the Alltel suit is also likely to reach a settlement this year. According to Alltel's estimates, not a figure to which the city has agreed, Monett could get another $60,585 from the lawsuit.

The three funding sources by these estimates would bring an additional $238,741 to the city's general fund this year. Pyle projected the amount would leave the city with a budget shortfall of less than $34,000 if the sales tax situation does not improve.

"It's not as bad as what it could be," Pyle said.

When the city council set its budget, calling for a wage freeze and no new capital improvements, Pyle recalled the move had been criticized as severe. However, had steps not been taken to restrain spending and sales tax had dropped 10 percent, Pyle said the consequences could have been very serious.

"We believe fiscal year 2009-10 will be covered," Pyle said, looking at the additional funding possibilities.

"We will continue to monitor revenues and expenses for the rest of the year. If the downturn continues past the first quarter of 2010, I don't know what kind of impact it will have," Pyle said. "As we begin preparing next year's budget from December through February, if the economy is still down, it will impact next year's budget."



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