City administration projects $4.8 million budget surplus

BURTON — At the city council’s first 2021-22 budget workshop on May 3, officials projected Burton will have a $4.8 million general fund balance by the end of the coming fiscal year.

Mayor Duane Haskins told the council at the workshop he was proud to announce the city would put growth back into the general fund to the sum of $760,000, despite the past year with COVID- 19.

“With everything that’s been going on, growth might not be able to be sustainable with the unknowns of COVID and everything that has been transpiring,” he said. “The city has still been doing well overall, despite the number of unknowns. With the additional money we are hoping that, by working with council, we can get more roads done and work on our local streets as well.”

Haskins said the city is also caught up with payment toward the Municipal Employees Retirement System (MERS) fund and Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB). He said the city received notice from the Michigan Department of Treasury that it no longer has to file a corrective action plan for unfunded liabilities.

“Which is a huge milestone for our city, considering everything we went through the last few years,” said Haskins.

Councilman Vaughn Smith said he had a chance to go through the budget and, in his opinion, things are looking very promising. He said the city has seen an increase in personal taxes because real estate is booming all across the country and in Burton.

He said the city is receiving an additional $125,656 in personal property taxes and state shared revenue will increase by $224,864. He called both increases “solid money”, which he said means it’s not one-time money.

“That’s $350,520 that’s new this year,” said Smith.

The police with their millage, he said, are also doing well because of the increase in taxes. Smith said the police department will receive an additional $265,509 in 2021-22. The fire department is also up by about $31,000.

“So, you start adding all that up, that’s like $600,000 in one year we’ve gotten locked into with long term monies,” said Smith.

Expenses last year were $5,897,000, said Smith, but they are projected to be down next fiscal year to $5,812,157. He said the city will realize not only an increase of $600,000 in revenue, but expenses will also be down, which helps account for the $760,000 surplus the city will place in its general fund this year.

Smith said further the administration deserves praise for keeping expenses down.

“That’s a good problem to have,” said Smith. “I’m not even going into the $455,000 onetime money for COVID or the potential $2.8 million (from the American Rescue Plan).”

With a projected $4.8 million in the general fund, he said the council has some decisions to make about how to best spend some of that money.

“Put your thinking caps on and decide how we can best use this money. The ceiling for the general fund is $720,000 (the minimum balance),” said Smith. “For Burton, it’s been painful the last six years, but we are starting to see some of the fruits of our financial discipline. How we portion that out, we need to be thinking about it.”

Council President Steve Heffner said he thinks the money should be put toward road and streets around Burton.

The city is also waiting to see if it will receive the $2.8 million from the American Rescue Plan, and what the guidelines will be for spending that relief money.

Haskins said the government still has not come out with the guidelines as to what the city can do with that, leaving the council waiting to see if there are improvements it can do regarding roads and streets, or tackle other needs in the city.

“It would be nice if we could do certain things with the money, whether it is to invest more in parks, or be able to pave our dirt roads, fix our local streets as we already said,” said Haskins. “But as long as we can keep moving forward with the improvements that were set forth and being able to increase our fund balances and do more to protect the city in the future so we don’t have to go through such entourages of things we had to go through in the past.

“It’s proven that council and administration working together to accomplish thee milestones we’ll be able to keep moving forward.”

Upcoming budget hearings will be May 18 and 24 at 6 p.m.