The city is in the process of crafting the budget for the fiscal year that begins May 1.
“We’re in good financial shape,” said City Administrator Dean Torreson. “We have a good cash balance in our general fund. We’re looking at submitting a balanced budget for next year if possible.”
Torreson added those words – “if possible” – because of ongoing debt in the water fund.
“The water fund is our problem child and it has been for quite a few years,” Torreson said.
He said the city did not increase water rates for many years. He does not blame past city councils for keeping rates level. But he said Macomb’s water rates are still lower than those in many other cities, and “Everything got old at once” in the city’s water department.
Macomb now owes money for improvements to the water plant and the two water towers –work done within the past few years. He said the city is paying half-a-million dollars in debt service on those projects.
The city will ease a bit of the pressure on the water fund by shifting some of that debt and some Spring Lake expenses to the general fund. He said the general fund has money to do that, though he cautioned it’s difficult to balance budgets through such shifting of expenses.
In addition, Torreson said residents and businesses seem to be doing a better job of conserving water. He’s glad they do that even though it reduces the amount of revenue the city collects from water bills.
“We instituted a three-percent rate increase and realized no increase in our revenue because of that,” Torreson said.
Torreson said the city also faces budget challenges due to the ever increasing cost of doing day-to-day business.
Torreson has already received funding requests from department heads in City Hall. He’s reviewed those requests with Mayor Mike Inman and will now meet with city council committees this month to go over the proposals with aldermen.
Torreson said the city strives to be conservative in its budget projections.
“We always end up with a couple hundred thousand more in revenue than we had in expenses,” he said.