Honorable Riverton City Councilmembers and Residents:
It is after extensive consultation with city staff, a review of our long-range and strategic plans, and identifying multiple cost-reducing proposals that I am prepared to submit to you the fiscal year 2022 Mayor’s Budget for your consideration.
The last fiscal year has come with considerable challenges and headwinds due to the global pandemic, resulting in stalled development and decreased revenue. Further, recently commissioned rate studies have come back with substantial rate increase recommendations for our culinary and secondary water funds. Additionally, new state requirements for secondary water metering have put new pressures on the budget.
I am happy to report that our residents, businesses, and this government have demonstrated an incredible resiliency in the face of these challenges with improving physical and economic health. Our city maintains a AAA credit rating. Sales tax revenues have grown by 56% since 2016, approaching almost $9.2 million. With a clear mission statement and strategic plan that prioritizes continuous innovation and improvement, the city has undergone an extensive reorganization effort that along with some planned retirements has resulted in a net reduction of 6.5 employees, saving nearly $1 million. Our incredible employees that number 160 full time equivalents (FTEs), represents 3.49 FTEs per 1000 in population – the lowest count compared to any city in the region. Remarkably, our year over year budgeted general fund expenditures, which in my opinion is the best barometer of the fiscal discipline of a city, is down from $11.8 million to $11.5 million!
These positive developments have created an opportunity to innovate and save residents money. In this budget I am proposing that all stormwater operational costs be rolled into our general fund and use the projected $5 per month savings for our residents to shore up our water and sanitation funds. Given the prospect for sales tax revenue increases, with the addition of more retail development, and the potential for additional savings from projects described below, I believe our enterprise funds can operate with these proposed rates for some time.
Here are a few of the other highlights for this budget proposal:
- Total budgeted expenditures, excluding transfers and additions to fund balance are $51 million, compared to last year’s total budget of $59 million.
- The American Rescue Plan funding from the federal government will send approximately $5 million to Riverton, with half that amount expected in this fiscal year. Given the legislation considers investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure as allowable uses, I have proposed spending $1.2 million of that amount this year to secure a city owned fiber backbone infrastructure. Not only will this save the city nearly $100 thousand in annual expenditures, but it will also improve connectivity to city assets, and set up the possibility of providing an open access network to all residents and businesses that can improve costs and availability.
- Roadway infrastructure continues to be a top priority, with $900,000 budgeted for asphalt maintenance. In addition, Riverton City will receive $700,000 annually for 15 years for roadway improvements due to the passage of HB244.
- With the projected growth in retail and residential construction this year and wanting to ensure we are ahead of the anticipated increase in calls for service, I am proposing the addition of a new police officer at the mid-year mark in January.
- Our Riverton Economic Development Infrastructure and Investment Fund is projected to have a year end fund balance of $6.3 million, even after using some of this fund to pay off $4 million in water bonds, placing less pressure on our Secondary Water fund.
- Increased development will bring with it increased developer-paid park impact fees, which we can use to add more capacity to our parks and open spaces. To that end, I am proposing the addition of four new pickleball and one tennis court to Riverton City Park and improving CR Hamilton Sports Complex with new lighting and field improvements.
- Higher sales tax revenues will allow the city to improve other city parks and facilities that do not qualify for using impact funds. This budget includes almost $400,000 in improving existing playgrounds, parking lots, trails, and our community center. I have also proposed setting aside funds to work in conjunction with Rocky Mountain Power to move more of our facilities to solar power, which can reduce costs and demonstrate better environmental stewardship.
- I am proposing that $1 from the approximate $5 monthly stormwater savings for residents be used for culinary water. This will bring operating revenues about $700,000 higher than operating expenditures. However, with annual construction projects estimated to run close to $1 million for the next few years and no ability to use culinary impact funds to offset these legacy projects, we will need this difference and a portion of our strong $5 million cash water fund balance to pay for planned maintenance and emergency projects. Additionally, it will be imperative to continue working with the county on re-engaging the Green Well, to improve the availability of water and costs for both us and the county. With this project, I believe we can hold water rates for years to come.
- The Secondary Water fund has been the most difficult this budgeting year. During the 2021 legislative session, legislators passed SB199 which requires that cities must meter all secondary water connections, and, by January 2022, “…establish a meter installation reserve for metering installation and replacement projects.” I am proposing a $2.50 increase to each residential connection to help fulfill this unfunded mandate. In an effort to mitigate future increases, I am also proposing paying off just over $4 million in water bonds and eliminating $12 million in future debt liability this year and using alternate means to pay for the balance of the water meter project on a less aggressive timeline. Funding mechanisms could include America Rescue Plan funding and state and federal grant monies. Let us not have Riverton residents paying more than their fair share on this state mandated project.
- I am proposing that $4 from the approximate $5 monthly stormwater savings for residents be applied to the first garbage/recycling tote. Even with this increased revenue for our sanitation fund, a $220,000 subsidy will still be required from our general fund. However, with the opportunity to own all our garbage and recycling cans in the next fiscal year, we anticipate evaluating options that that could result in cost savings that can sustain this rate.
- Total annual utility fees are $9756.36 for the average resident, which is still the lowest in the region. I find it remarkable that for less than the cost of monthly internet service, our residents on average can enjoy all the benefits of culinary water, secondary water, sanitation, parks, street lighting, storm water and street cleaning and maintenance.
- The move to our own police department and taxing district continues to show huge property tax savings, approaching $180 per year for the average homeowner.
Through smart planning efforts, our city has proven to weather the past year’s unforeseen challenges. We continue to deliver best-in-class services and keep fees low for our residents. I am grateful for the dedicated work of our City Council. Their demonstrated vision and passion for the city has clearly made an impact. The significant contributions of our employees should also be recognized, along with the numerous hours that went into the preparation and final delivery of this budget. I am grateful for their support and dedication in serving our great residents. I am also grateful for our residents that continue to exemplify and set the standard of what it means to be part of a great community.
I encourage all to read through this budget and provide feedback to your elected representatives. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions or comments.
Mayor Trent Staggs