Marietta officials review city finances before budget talks

MARIETTA — Marietta City Council reviewed the state of city finances Wednesday prior to beginning 2019 budget discussions in executive session.

The general fund sits at $883,216.41 with the final quarter of the year facing city officials to pay bills and employees.

“We’ll be looking at final quarter numbers with the September audit report next month,” said Councilman Mike Scales Wednesday. “But on our budget report, I feel good thus far in the year.”

Assistant Safety-Service Director Bill Dauber noted that the predicted carry-forward balance into 2019 is $925,000, still shy of the preferred $1.5 million in the general fund, which is used at any given point to cover bills and payroll between the distribution of tax revenues to the city.

“December collection of income tax isn’t released until February,” said Auditor Sherri Hess. “But revenues don’t always sync with when we need to pay bills.”

During the Audit Committee meeting Wednesday, Scales asked how many pay periods are left until the end of this year. Hess and Treasurer Cathy Harper said there are seven.

Then committee members Cassidi Shoaf and Scales looked over the status of the city’s streets fund and water and sewer enterprise funds.

“There’s a good cushion in streets right now with $603,000,” noted Scales.

“But where would you like the streets account to be by this point in the year?” asked Shoaf.

“I’d like to have it at $1 million but it’s not been there for years,” said Scales. “But if the Fire and Streets Income Tax Levy passes in November, one-third of those revenues, about $300,000, would go to streets and leverage even more in grants and loans from federal and state sources for our roads.”

Dauber further illustrated that with a local match of $300,000 an additional $1.2 million in grant funding could be leveraged to cover major street projects in 2019.

Both the water and sewer funds are enterprise funds, said Scales, and they are fed revenue by the services the city provides for fees on the infrastructure and usage. As council continues budget discussions the remainder of the fall and into the winter, the legislative body will discuss with administration whether rates are to increase next year.

“We’ve stayed pretty steady with rates, but they’re about to take a jump,” said McCauley. “We put a lot of money into the sewer plant on loans and without the addition of 11.5 percent revenues from what was supposed to come in from Devola and Oak Grove (per a contract with the Washington County Commissioners to sewer both communities) that’s looking to be on the backs of Marietta residents now.”

Repayment on those loans begin once the renovation to the plant is complete in late 2019, McCauley said.

Scales said 2019 budget discussions will begin in the coming weeks after all department heads turn in their budget requests Friday to Dauber.