By Lee Weyhrich
The Clay City Council has begun preliminary work on next year’s budget.
While none of the figures are binding as of yet, two things are obvious: the city will have nearly double the revenue, and Obamacare will cause a 30 percent increase in the city’s payroll.
Due to the new two-cent gas tax, voted on in July, the city is expecting nearly $1 million in additional revenue for next year, bringing the city’s tax revenue to roughly $2.8 million. While this is a large increase overall, the council does not expect an instant change in the city’s coffers.
“While we have an additional $960,000 of income, it comes $80,000 at a time,” City Manager Ronnie Dixon said. “I don’t see any additional money going into savings.”
The city is putting most of these additional funds into services such as increased police funding and education funding. The rest will go to other necessary budget items, including payroll.
Payroll for Clay will likely jump $150,000 in 2014 due partially to employee raises, but largely due to the Affordable Healthcare Act. According to Dixon, city leaders were told to expect a 30 percent increase in payroll expenses due to the health care legislation. Even if the program fails to go into effect until next year, the legislation states the expenses could be retroactively applied for the previous 18 months, Dixon said.
Police funding will likely go up 35 percent from $350,000 in 2013 to $553,000 in 2014. That money will fund equipment to outfit the city’s police cars, as well as a larger number of deputies, among other things. As the budget stands, the council will be able to provide four deputies. Councilman Ricky Baker recommended the city only fund three deputies, in order to save for a future city police force.
The council also discussed the acquisition of a repeater for emergency radios to be installed at Clay-Chalkville High School. The repeater would extend the range for emergency service radios in the area. The repeater comes at the request of the school resource officer, who believes the equipment could quicken response times in case of emergency, Mayor Charles Webster said.
The school system itself will see the most massive increase in funds from the city. School funding has been increased from $2,500 in 2013 to roughly $96,000 in 2014. Dixon hopes the additional funds can be used for much-needed programs and upgrades.