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City Manager Ken Larking tonight submitted to City Council a proposed budget that maintains basic city services and programs, addresses budget challenges, and invests additional money in crime reduction initiatives, public schools and projects designed to grow Danville.
The proposed budget is a working draft for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. City Council began reviewing the budget after it was submitted and will meet next week in a series of work sessions. Public hearings will be held in May and June.
Final adoption must take place no later than June 30. The final budget will serve as a framework for city operations from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019.
“This budget makes a strong case for providing government services at adequate levels, but also making investments in areas that will help us to have fiscal sustainability,” Larking said. “We have worked hard to transform this community for the better. We have aggressively recruited industries to the area. We have an award winning River District. We are working hard on blight eradication and improving historical districts.
“These are things above and beyond what the City is required to do to provide government services, and they all go toward making Danville a more desirable place for those who live here and for those who are thinking about coming here.”
Reducing crime, improving public schools and growing Danville are the three focus areas that City Council has identified and to which it has reaffirmed its commitment.
Over the last several months, the City has taken several steps to reduce crime, including establishing a gang task force and a youth services task force, upgrading police equipment, and reorganizing public safety staff to allow police officers to focus on community policing while civilian personnel handle routine office tasks.
Larking is proposing an additional $445,000 to purchase new security cameras and public safety equipment, fund a crime scene analyst position, and provide a sheriff’s deputy supplement.
For schools, the City in its current budget provided additional funding of $1.6 million for operations, bringing the total to nearly $20.6 million or 8.42 percent over the previous level.
Larking’s proposed budget does not include additional funding for school operations, but he is recommending that City Council modify the budget ordinance to allow Danville Public Schools to retain up to $2 million in unspent local funds. Any unspent funds beyond $2 million would be placed in a capital reserve fund for future school capital needs. The current budget ordinance caps at $1 million the amount of money in unspent funds that schools can retain.
To grow Danville, Larking is recommending $730,000 for several projects, including engineering services for a riverfront park, existing park improvements, gateway improvements, and economic development recruitment and expansion.
In addition to costs associated with the City Council focus areas, the proposed budget sets aside funds to pay an average 2 percent pay-for-performance raise for employees and to enhance public safety retirement benefits.
The proposed budget addresses budget challenges. It would cover a major increase in the cost of employee health insurance. It also would pay a portion of the increase in retirement contributions for employees that occurred because of new formulas associated with increased life expectancy.
To help pay for these costs, Larking is proposing a one percentage-point increase in the meals tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. A one percentage-point increase in the meals tax would increase a $25 restaurant bill by 25 cents.
Larking also is proposing fee increases for airport hangar rentals and building inspections. In addition, fee adjustments are proposed to accommodate the acceptance of credit cards for payment.
No changes are proposed in the real estate and personal property tax rates. In addition, no changes are proposed in base rates for utilities.
The proposed budget, at $290.5 million, is 1.3 percent more than the current budget.