Lander’s FY15 budget bottom line almost the same as the current year

(Lander, Wyo.) – The City of Lander’s Fiscal Year 2015 General Fund Budget has nearly the same bottom line as the current year’s, but it didn’t come without work. Treasurer Charri Lara said the budget process was different this year, with the city council more involved.

In past years as department heads worked to cut their budgets to meet expected revenues, they did so mainly among themselves and then brought a recommendation for a final budget to the council. This year the council was involved in the cutting. “The council could see what was given up,” Lara said.

The city’s general fund budget for 2015 is estimated to be $5.08 million. The current year’s is $5.07 million. The exact difference is slightly less than $10,000. The general fund’s largest single source of revenue is sales tax, which Lara is keeping the same expectations as this year, $1.7 million. Charges for water and sewer services are accounted for in the enterprise fund.

The community center’s construction is expected to cost the city $1.5 million out of pocket. The rest of the more than $5 million is funded through grants and donations. Lara said the city’s share of the cost will come in the form of a self-loan to the general fund from the enterprise fund. The city will be paying itself interest over the 50-year life of the loan. In Fiscal Year 2015, the city is expecting to spend just over $52,000 from the general fund for the project.

Lara described the city’s decision to pay for the community center like an investment. The city is building the structure in hopes of attracting larger conferences and groups that otherwise wouldn’t hold their events in Lander. This in-turn would bring in more sales tax revenue, which would increase the city’s ability to pay for projects. Lara said the city is already starting to see this interest.

To accommodate that and other areas with rising expenses, such as the Fire Department’s new ladder truck, the city had to cut some areas of spending. Included in those cuts are $52,000 of $67,000 that it has contributed to the Lander School District’s swimming pool operations. The city also cut approximately $20,000 in contributions to local nonprofits. Employee salaries remain untouched from the current year.

General government expenses have been cut about $45,000, attorneys costs budgeted about $8,000 less, and streets about $40,000 less as well. Cuts to any specific department came out of its discretionary funds, not out of mandatory expenses.

The enterprise fund’s budget is increasing about $600,000, to total $3.39 million, to accommodate incoming loans for waste water infrastructure improvements, which are to be paid off by the recently adjusted water and sewer customer rates.