FERRIS: City Manager explains a half-million dollar budget shortfall

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By Rita Cook / The Ellis County Press

FERRIS – Cities must have a budget in order to keep the lights on literally and figuratively. 

Most cities function on the assumption the budget will get adjusted during the fiscal year.  Like most cities, Ferris has done its share of adjusting – adding and subtracting amounts from the bottom line.

In most cases these adjustments are made and often look unbalanced to the casual observer due to the city waiting on matching money, donations or the like in order for the budget to be adjusted properly.

Ferris City Manager Bill Jordan said the city budget this fiscal year got hit with unexpected emergencies that could not be put off – and were unwelcome budget hits.

For example, three key water pumps in the city went out and had to be replaced, costing $62,799.36 –  and along that same line there was the engineering services for a new waterline that cost $4,681.25.

“We recently completed a Fiscal Year 2018 budget amendment, and are currently working on the Fiscal Year 2019 budget,” Jordan said. 

“The amendment addressed unexpected expenditures the city incurred throughout the year.”
Jordan explained one of the significant amendments was related to land purchase made through the 4A EDC. 

“The remainder of the high cost amendments were the purchase of police vehicles, repairs to water/sewer pumps and engineering services. 

“The amendment also included revenues that offset all but $186,230 of the general fund overages, and $161,573 of the 4A overages,” Jordan added.

Overall, the General Fund was budgeted at $3,488,666.38, and it is currently instead at $3,812,319,69, with the amount of unreimbursed money $186,230.40.

The 4A board had a budget of $262,759.66 as compared to the actual monies spent of $1,192,958.34, with a difference of $930,198.68, and an amount from the fund balance unreimbursed $161,573.68.

In the Utility Fund, the original budget of $1,566,905.93 is compared now to the actual money spent of $1,641,548.18, with a difference of $74,142.25, and the unreimbursed amount being $74,142.25.

For these reasons, the City of Ferris is in a hiring and overtime freeze as well as a spending freeze. 

The budget analysis also surmised the reserve for the General Fund had dropped from 27-percent to 19-percent, with the main cause being the unbudgeted expense for the municipal center design.

“This was a significant hit to the city since the bond election did not pass – that would have given this line item a sense of purpose. 

“The budget had reflected the bond passing in order for the $131,227.31 to be spent and adjusted appropriately.

The year to date amount for amendment totals was $125,264.28 in the budget, with the year to date actual being $220,076.57, and a suggested amendment of $267,098.19.

Other expenditures costing the city during Ferris’ fiscal year to date were the $10,500 Bowman investigation for the shenanigans at City Hall relating to city employees and incidents; professional services related to the city’s credit rating; Economic Development Project Publications, and even furniture at the Fire Department because of a bed bug infestation.

In regard to the Ferris Police Department’s budget, there was a suggested amendment of $165,144.73 with a reminder $129,608.30 was in anonymous donations given to the PD this year. The overtime at the Police Department came in at $15,597.18, mainly due to overtime because of a shortage of dispatchers – those vacancies have now been filled.

There were two new police vehicles purchased for the police department, and vehicle repairs was upwards of $5,500.

There is also $8,500 being spent on DNA testing for the city’s open murder cases, of which there are currently three cold cases.

The overage for Yellow Jacket Trail is $13,725.47, and for the land involving the EDC fund there was an overage of $927,327.98.   

The Utility and 4A Fund are both well within reserve limits according to Jordan even with the General Fund being out of sorts.Sometimes, budget money can fall positive too.

There was only $1,000 budgeted for donations, but an adjustment saw there has been $136,608.03 on the positive side to date.

“It is common that throughout the year, unexpected expenses and revenues will occur,” Jordan concluded. 

“The budget amendment process is a tool to recalculate the budget so that staff can see the real impact of revenues versus expenditures and make adjustments as appropriate.  In this case, the recalculation made it clear that a decrease in spending was necessary in order to stay within budget.” 

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