Moroni City General Fund budget down, but total budget up sharply

MORONI—Moroni City will be operating a $923,000 General Fund budget between now and June 30, 2022. That represents a $225,000 drop in the budget from the previous year.

In contrast, the 2021-22 budget for the total city, including utilities and other self-contained funds, is $5.38 million, up nearly $3.7 million from the 2020-21 budget.

The main reason for the drop in the General Fund, the fund that covers city government activities ranging from administration to police to parks and recreation, is that last year’s budget included $114,000 in federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES).

The city doesn’t have those funds this year, although Moroni, like other cities, may receive additional aid as the year progresses from the American Rescue Plan approved early in the Biden administration.

The main reason the total city budget is up sharply is a $3.54 million culinary water project, which was approved in March. The project includes a new well, water tank and piping; it is projected to increase the Moroni water supply at least 35 percent. Funding for the project is coming from a state grant and a state loan. 

The new budget was approved in June in the face of some vocal citizen criticism of a $25,000 transfer from the water fund to the General Fund; a fountain in the main city park that was supposed to cost $18,000 but was running above that figure; and plans to spend up to $37,000 from the perpetual care fund for a high-end riding mower to cut grass in the cemetery.

Regarding the $25,000 transfer, Gary Keddington, city finance consultant, explained that in the past the city didn’t pay for water it used in its own buildings.

Then the Legislature passed a law requiring cities to pay from their general funds into their water funds for water used. “It has to be the same charge [rate] as any other customer,” Keddington said.

But in what might seem like a contradiction, the Legislature permitted water systems to give the money back. And the state required the cities to notify every water customer of the transfer back to the general fund.

“It’s transparency,” Keddington said, “so you know what’s going on.”

The $25,000 didn’t come from citizens, he explained. It came from the city itself. “There’s no cash being moved around.”

The criticism of the fountain, located on 300 West, the main frontage street to the park, was a little late on the draw. By the time of the hearing, the fountain, constructed largely with volunteer labor, was essentially complete. But the 2021-22 budget did include $4,000 for brick to line the walls of the structure.

Jared Howells, who is running against Mayor Paul Bailey, presented a petition, which he said had been signed by 107 residents, calling on the city council to “stop all construction” on the fountain.

Howells’ main criticism was that the city shouldn’t be building a fountain in a drought year. However, the fountain, like nearly all fountains, will simply recirculate the same water.

“When we voted for the fountain, we voted for $18,000, not $22,000,” Councilman Fred Atkinson said.

The $22,000 Atkinson cited represented the original $18,000 plus the $4,000 for brick. Atkinson moved to cut the budget for brick by $2,000. The motion passed.

Because the lawn mower was being paid from the perpetual care fund, which includes funds reserved for permanent care of graves, the city was required to publish a public notice of the amount it planned to spend.

Since the city hadn’t identified the machine it wanted to buy, it set the figure high—at $37,000. Four days after the budget hearing, the council held a special meeting and approved purchase of a mower for $25,000.

The new budget includes a 2 percent general pay raise for all city employees. On top of the 2 percent, the city recorder, maintenance supervisor and maintenance assistant will each receive a $1 per hour merit increase.