City council passes 2019 budget

Clarkston City Council voted unanimously Dec. 4 to approve the proposed fiscal year 2019 budget.

The $15,039,207 budget is a more than $2 million or 16 percent increase over last year, according to City Manager Keith Barker.

“It is a balanced budget,” Barker said. “The state requires that a budget is balanced, your revenues must equal expenditures.”

City staff projected a general fund operating budget of $6,378,468, which is a $474,063 increase compared to the 2018 budget of $5,904,405. The city’s administration has a proposed increase of $152,671 in total expenditures due to vacation and sick time payouts upon Barker’s retirement in January, as well as increases in salary, health insurance and retirement contributions.

At the Nov. 27 work session, Barker pointed out the decrease in group health insurance premium cost and the increase in retirement contributions.
“The city council has graciously agreed and voted to gradually make some enhancements to our retirement program that were sorely needed in order to stay competitive and provide employees with a decent retirement plan,” Barker said. “Right now, we’re at two and a half percent times your years of service.”

The proposed total retirement contributions for 2019 represent 6.9 percent of total general fund operating expenditures, according to Barker.

Another highlight of the proposed budget is the recommendation of freezing six unfunded patrol officer positions. After the 2015 annexation, staffing levels increased to 26 positions, but due to challenges in recruitment and retention of officers, a few positions were unfunded in the budget.

“[Since the annexation], I don’t believe we have ever had more than 20 staffers in police services,” Barker said. “Last year and the year before, we froze three positions. It doesn’t make any sense, if you can’t fill those positions, to carry them on the books and charge property taxes, and then amass more money in the budget than what you need.”

Barker said he is recommending freezing six positions this fiscal year because the city has not been able to fill those positions. However, Barker said the city will continue to attract and retain officers.

“We’re not cutting any positions,” Barker said.

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