Dover City Council put a tentative stamp of approval on the latest city budget proposal Wednesday night, setting the stage for a final vote later this month.
The current version of the FY2015 spending plan includes no property tax increase.
Instead, the proposal would plug Dover’s projected $2.3 million shortfall with a combination of reserve funds previously set aside to keep the city’s electric rates stable and cuts to planned expenditures.
The new budget plan amends a prior proposal council members tentatively agreed to on June 5.
In addition to a standard transfer of $8 million from the city’s electric fund, the new budget plan would move an additional $1.5 million from the city’s electric rate stabilization reserves to cover the general fund deficit.
The total transfer from the city’s electric fund would be $10 million under the current proposal, a move also would cover the city’s streetlights fund. In addition, the latest version of the proposal would shift $100,000 from a fund intended for street repairs into a reserve that could be used to build a new recreation center in Dover Park.
The budget proposal tentatively agreed to Wednesday by a 5-4 vote was one of two options that City Manager Scott Koenig brought to the table in response to councilmembers concerns over the June 5 plan.
The other option proposed a property tax increase of either 2.22-cents or 3.22-cents, but that idea received only passing attention from council.
The new spending plan must pass a final vote on June 23. If approved then, the $136.8 million budget would go into effect July 1.
In a separate vote, council members also agreed Wednesday to amend the city’s transfer policy, under which it is allowed to move revenues from the water/wastewater and electric utilities to cover general fund expenses.
In a 6-3 decision, council raised the electric transfer from $8 million to $10 million and the water/wastewater transfer from $500,000 to $1 million.
The change means Koenig and City Treasurer/Controller Donna Mitchell can move those funds without separate action from council.
In separate discussions, council also referred several proposed financial reforms suggested by Councilman Tim Slavin to its legislative and finance committee.
Slavin’s proposals include creating a separate public safety account to pay for all police, fire and life safety issues, with the entire fund paid out of property tax revenues.
His proposed reforms also would place restrictions on pay raises and bonuses for city employees – including union workers – and would disallow the practice of moving funds raised for a particular purpose to unrelated accounts.
Slavin also proposed that public referendum be required for any property tax increase of more than 9.5 percent. An alternative to that proposal would allow a tax increase of that size only after a two-thirds vote by council.
In other actions, Koenig warned council members that the city faces a number of future expenses that needs to be addressed, including major upgrades to the city’s water treatment plant, maintenance costs for city streets and sidewalks, upgrades to City Hall and other city-owned buildings, safety improvements and pension account changes.
Council also agreed to reconsider at its next meeting a failed proposal to demolish the now-vacant recreation building at Dover Park. That action was defeated by a 5-4 vote on June 9.