$45.5 million Bardstown budget presented for 2015

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By Randy Patrick

Mayor Bill Sheckles presented what he called a “no frills budget” to the Bardstown City Council Tuesday and asked its members to study and be ready to talk about it at a June 3 work session.

The $45.5 million spending plan is $3 million more than the current-year budget, with nearly all of the increase being in the public utilities fund.

Combined utilities make up $38.1 million of the spending plan, and general government, which includes everything else — from public safety to recreation and streets — is $7.5 million of the budget.

The mayor presents the budget, but the council may change the administration’s spending priorities. After the discussion June 3, the council must have two readings of the budget ordinance at subsequent public meetings and vote on it before the state’s fiscal year begins July 1.

Sheckles highlighted significant aspects of the spending plan, including, for the first time, “full funding of the 27 authorized officers of the city police department,” “adequate funding” of the fire department and spending to address the “heavy winter damage” to city streets.

Law enforcement is the biggest area of expenditure in the general budget, with $2.7 million. Other areas in general government include $1.1 million for fire protection, just over $1 million each in finance and streets, and $877,000 in administration.

The budget also includes utility system improvements, including the automation of electrical meter reading, installation of underground electrical service in the area of Demaree and Guthrie drives and an upgrade of the Barton electrical substation.

The water budget, Sheckles said, includes no major new projects, but significant improvements to the current system, and sewer works must continue to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards and better serve the city’s neighborhoods. As a result of the move to automated meter reading, the number of meter readers on the city’s payroll will be reduced from four to one in the new fiscal year.

The utilities budget includes expansion of the cable television and Internet system to serve more neighborhoods outside the city limits.

Two percent of all utility revenue, Sheckles said, “has been dividended out” to help fund the increase in the general fund.

Although payroll in every department is increased by 2 percent in the mayor’s proposal, he said his intent is not to give raises “across the board,” but rather to use that money for merit increases.

Sheckles mentioned that in the current fiscal year, the city has invested approximately $100,000 in the City of Bardstown Education Center (COBEC), which now has two paying tenants with multi-year contracts, and an improved gym for youth activities. He said he doesn’t anticipate any additional significant expenditures on the building in 2014-15, but the city could get more revenue from it because it has other potential clients for the space that remains unoccupied.

The utilities budget includes $17.7 million in electrical service, $4.5 million in water, $3.9 million in sewer, $8 million in cable TV, $2.5 million in Internet and $1.4 million in garbage collection.

The budget anticipates an excess of revenue over spending of $114,000 in general government and $296,000 in utilities.

Sheckles said he, Mike Abell, the city’s finance officer, and all of the department heads “spent a lot of time putting this budget together.”

“It’s a good budget. It keeps us in the black,” he said.

If the councilmen have any questions about the budget, he said, he encouraged them to contact Abell.

“Come next Tuesday night, during our working session, we’ll fine-tune it and try to have it approved by the next council meeting,” he said.