May 22, 2023 |
Photo – Saratoga Town Hall – Bigfoot99 file photo
It’s flooding time, and budget time. In Saratoga, tough cuts are needed to make up a $1-million budget deficit.
During last Tuesday’s town council meeting, the fiscal year 2024 budget was read for the first time. Town Clerk Marie Christen said the budget contains over $1 million less than last year.
Councilman Jacob Fluty asked why the town was losing so much money. Christen said the Wyoming Association of Municipalities, or WAM, has projected lower income across the board, especially in tax revenue.
Christen said fewer grants and lower tax income has left the town in the red. Councilman Jerry Fluty pointed out the town was also receiving no Chokecherry impact assistance funds this year.
Councilwoman Kathy Beck asked for a detailed explanation of the town’s finances. Councilwoman Beck said she wanted to know where the projected numbers came from. Christen said the town uses WAM predictions and past income reports to determine the budget.
Councilwoman Beck said she was having trouble understanding where the money went. She said she would need a comprehensive breakdown before she could vote on the new budget. Councilman Jerry Fluty explained that the town was no longer receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in impact assistance funding.
Reading from the budget, Councilman Jerry Fluty said the town lost $100,000 in sales tax since the previous financial year. The councilman continued reading, saying tax revenue in general was down.
The council examined the budget, trying to determine if savings could be had from other departments. The town clerk said they have no choice but to significantly lower next year’s budget or find a way to drastically increase the town’s income. Councilman Jacob Fluty asked what the source of the lower income was. Councilman Jerry Fluty said the loss of the impact funding had a large effect on the budget.
Councilman Jacob Fluty asked why the town was no longer receiving any impact assistance money. Mayor Chuck Davis said he didn’t know. Mayor Davis said the town received several hundred thousand dollars in impact assistance over the past two years. The mayor said Saratoga would not receive any money for the upcoming fiscal year.
Mayor Davis said total projected tax revenue was also down from last year, including sales and property taxes.
Councilwoman Beck said she expected to see increased spending for the town’s recreation department in the proposed budget. The councilwoman said she needed more time to look at the fiscal plan before she could vote on it.
Councilwoman Beck asked the council to table the budget until she could examine it further. The town clerk said they were running out of time to pass the budget. Christen said the document needed to be finalized before July 1st.
Mayor Davis said Councilwoman Beck would have a better understanding of the town’s finances if she attended more budget workshops. Councilwoman Beck agreed, saying that she couldn’t set aside the time to be in more meetings. The councilwoman said she still needed to examine the budget longer before voting to accept it.
Mayor Davis reminded Councilwoman Beck that more meetings were needed to dial in each department’s budget before everything was finalized.
The mayor asked for a motion to pass the budget on the first reading. Councilman Mike Cooley made the motion with Councilman Jerry Fluty seconding. Councilwoman Beck was the lone nay vote.
Saratoga’s fiscal year 2024 budget was passed on the first reading. Mayor Davis instructed Christen to schedule more workshops so the council could fine-tune the town’s finances before the budget was read a second time.