Moroni budget projecting 15-percent
drop due to coronavirus
By Suzanne Dean
MORONI—The Moroni City Council has approved a preliminary general fund budget of $1.15 million for 2020-21, which is down $189,000 from the $1.34 million current budget.
At a meeting May 14, the council also approved a total budget for all functions, including not only the general fund but also the city’s water, sewer and secondary irrigation funds, of $1.97 million, which is $284,000 less than the 2019-20 budget of $2.26 million.
Copies of the budget are available at city hall. A public hearing on the budget, which includes fee increases of $4 per month and a one-time special assessment of $25 toward a rebuild of the secondary irrigation system, will be held tonight at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.
The numbers might suggest the city is struggling financially and being forced to cut its budget. Actually, the opposite is true, Gary Keddington, CPA, a budget consultant for Moroni and several other small cities, told the Moroni City Council at a meeting May 14.
Moroni has had exceptionally good years and has accumulated surpluses for the past several years, he said. But it is looking at a significant drop in revenue next year because of the new coronavirus.
Keddington is projecting a 15 percent drop in sales tax revenue, in a local-option sales tax for roads and even in the Class C road assistance money the city gets from the state.
“Fifteen percent is the best guess at this point,” he said. Some local governments around Utah are projecting up to a 25 percent drop.
The preliminary budget approved by the council calls for using about $300,000 in surplus funds carried over from 2018-19 and 2019-20 to cover expenses in the coming year. The $300,000 is included in the $1.15 million in budgeted revenue.
The state only allows a city to carry over a surplus in its general funds equal to 25 percent of the total revenues the general fund took in during a given year, Keddington told the council.
An audit of the 2018-19 budget found the city had racked up a surplus that was $495,000 in excess of the 25 percent allowance. “The 2019-20 general fund projection indicates the city may add to that amount,” Keddington said in a memo to the city council.
Keddington recommended to the city council that, assuming the city has accumulated $500,000 in surplus revenue, the council carry the $300,000 into the coming 2020-21 budget year to help make up for anticipated dips in revenue. But that would still leave more than $200,000 that it could not carry over without exceeding the 25 percent allowance.
It is up to the council, Keddington said, to decide what to do with the money. It can spend it for items not in the budget as now written, put it in one or more utility funds, or add it to savings for a “rainy day.”
Regarding the surpluses, Keddington said they sometimes happened because the city budgeted for projects but for various reasons didn’t go through with projects in the year in which they were budgeted.
“The other reason we have some savings is that this council, and many councils before it, have been very conservative…,” Keddington told the council. “We budget the revenues a little lower than we think we’re going to actually get, and then we budget a little more in expenses (than the city thinks it will spend).
“Sometimes the revenues will come in better than we think they will, yet we stay within expenses, so that adds to the saving. So it’s built up over quite a few years.”
The budget for 2020-21 includes a $1 per household per month increase in the police fee and a $1 per household per month increase in a fee for public parks.
In an interview, Mayor Paul Bailey said years ago the city realized it could not support a police department with standard revenue sources, yet it wanted its own officers to patrol the street and keep tabs on drug activity—things the Sheriff’s Office couldn’t be expected to do if it was covering the town.
At that time, the city council added a $10 per month police fee to all utility bills. The fee stayed at $10 for a long time. Meanwhile, salaries and other costs of running a police department increased. So a few years ago, the council raised the fee to $19 per month.
But the fee still isn’t keeping up with the increase in costs, Bailey said. Moroni just lost a police chief who had been with the city a little more than one year, because the chief took another job at a substantial raise in pay. So, Bailey said, the council wants to continue to raise the fee by small amounts to raise the needed funds.
The public parks fee, currently $2, would go to $3.
The budget includes a $2 per month increase for each secondary irrigation connection. Plus each customer will be billed for a one-time, special assessment of $25.
Several months ago, Councilman Craig Draper reported that the secondary irrigation system has so many leaky pipes and other problems that the whole system needed to be rebuilt.
Bailey said most of the $2 increase would be earmarked for the replacement fund.
“We were talking about a special assessment of $100,” Bailey told the city council. “But we decided that was too much.
However, he said, the $25 special assessment that is included in the budget for the next fiscal year would help. He said the city might also get a grant and could, if needed, dip into some of its accumulated savings.
The 2020-21 budget includes several increases over the current year. There is a 3 percent pay increase for “selected employees.”
The budget includes a $100,000 increase for street maintenance and $25,000 to buy a mini dump truck for the street department.
The budget also calls for $28,000 to replace four self-contained breathing apparatus units—the oxygen tanks and hoses fire fighters wear when they go into smoke-filled buildings. The units expire after a certain number of years and some of Moroni’s units are passed their expiration dates.