The checkbook is balanced at Lawrence City Hall.
A new financial report shows that Lawrence city government in 2010 managed to take in about $215,000 more in revenue than it spent, despite a down economy.
“We feel like we have done a good job paying attention to the priorities of city commissioners, and one of their clear priorities was cautious spending in challenging economic times,” City Manager David Corliss said.
This marks the fourth year in a row that revenues in the city’s general fund have exceeded expenses. Corliss points to a variety of budget adjustments that commissioners have allowed him to make in order to balance revenues with expenses. That’s included a review of whether positions that become vacant ought to be filled.
The city started 2011 with 10 fewer full-time positions than it had in 2010. The employee totals largely were cut through attrition, with the public works and parks and recreation departments seeing the largest decreases.
But the new report also shows how much voters have had to do with the city’s finances. 2010 was the first full year of three new sales taxes approved by voters in November 2008. Those sales taxes — for infrastructure and transit — increased city revenues by $7.3 million. Absent those new sales tax dollars, the city would have had a budget that was roughly at 2008 levels.
The report also highlights that consumers did not do much to improve the city’s coffers. If you factor out the three new sales taxes, the city’s sales tax collections were down 2.1 percent in 2010. That’s about the same rate of decline the city experienced in 2009. Corliss said declining retail sales are a growing concern for the city. Sales tax revenues account for about 45 percent of the city’s general fund budget. Property taxes account for about 23 percent.
“We keep waiting for the turn in the economy, and I guess we’ll keep waiting,” Corliss said. “Until we see that, we’re going to have to be very cautious.”
Here’s a look at other figures from the city’s year-end report:
• Total general fund revenues in 2010 were $64.19 million, up from $59.78 million in 2009. Total general fund expenditures were $63.98 million, up from $59.44 million.
• The portion of your utility bill that goes to City Hall increased in 2010. Franchise fees — a payment utilities make to the city for use of city rights-of-way — totaled $6.3 million in 2010. That was up from $5.8 million in 2009.
• Revenue from speeding tickets, parking fines and other similar offenses increased by about $470,000 in 2010. The city implemented a series of Municipal Court fine increases in 2010. Overall the city collected $2.95 million in fines.
• The amount of property taxes collected by the city did not budge much in 2010. City commissioners held the mill levy steady, and the number of new construction projects didn’t do much to increase property tax collections. The city collected $14.97 million in 2010 compared with $14.6 million in 2009.
• The city’s water and wastewater fund just barely broke even in 2010, despite water and sewer rates that were higher than in 2009. The water and wastewater fund collected only $3,246 more in revenue than expenses. Revenues for the fund grew by 4.2 percent, but expenses increased by 8.8 percent. Corliss said the high level of expenditures was a reflection that the city had significant amounts of aging water and sewer infrastructure to repair or replace.
The new numbers suggest the city will have to closely watch the fund in 2011. City commissioners rejected a proposal to increase water and sewer rates for this year.
“We’re going to really have to work to manage our expenditures and be wise about what projects we choose to defer,” Corliss said.
City commissioners are scheduled to review the financial reports at their weekly meeting at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall.