Denison enters budget season with annual retreat

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The Denison City Council held its annual budget retreat Friday.

Denison city staff and leadership began the lengthy process of setting a budget for the next fiscal year Friday when the city formally held its annual budget retreat. The annual meeting allows city council members and staff to talk about proposed projects, spending and city needs ahead of the adoption of the budget this fall.

For this year's budget season city leaders will be tasked in choosing what projects, from among more than $15 million worth of projects and expenses requested by staff, should be pursued in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

"This is one of my favorite events because we get to be in the room with staff as they talk about how we can move forward with our vision," Mayor Janet Gott said Friday.

For this year's retreat, staff gave a series of presentations on various projects ranging from improvements to existing infrastructure and new utilities to parks and recreation and public safety. 

The 2020-2021 fiscal year was a softer blow to the city than initially expected. Despite cutting its budget mid year, the city is still on pace to see its revenues out pace its costs by $1.85 million. Initially, the city was expecting to dip below the 60 mark for its general fund reserve — a common barometer for the city's financial health. However, instead it is expected to stay above the bar with 64 days of reserve.

Currently, the city is poised to start the fiscal year in October with 5.44 million in cash balance for its general fund. The fund is expected to grow by about 443,675 for the year, bringing it to 71 days of reserve funding.

Staff attributed this in part to outside funding the city received, including federal relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, the city received $3.66 million in funding through the American Rescue Plan. A second distribution is expected next year.

Meanwhile, the city's utility fund saw a sharp hit earlier this year due to the February winter storms. Initially, the city planned to end 2021 with 75 days of utility reserve. However, current estimates put this closer to 63 due to the added expense.

In addition to discussing the city's current finances, staff also caught the city council up on the city's current bond rating, which sits at AA and AA- with credit agencies Fitch and S&P Global, respectively. Staff said this was ahead of a possible bond election — the first for the city since 2005.

City Staff said there was not a specific series of projects that potential bond funds could finance and instead characterized the possible bonds as the city taking advantage of historic lows.