City's proposes five percent reduction in 2012 budget

De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle is a cautious man when it comes to the city's finances. When he speaks of making five-year forecasts of city funds and maintaining the city's cash balance, he often uses the phrase "in the worst-case scenario" to describe how he comes about his numbers. This cautious nature is paying off for De Soto.

The proposed 2012 city budget of $7,517,316, which will likely be approved after a public hearing at the Aug. 18 meeting, shows a five percent reduction from the $7,848,699 2011 budget and does not include a mill levy increase.

Guilfoyle attributs the majority of the budget reduction to the city's efforts to reduce capital improvement projects.

"We're trying to be very cautious with our improvement projects and really only do the very basic ones, sort of the meat and potatoes of needed improvements," Guilfoyle said.

Necessary improvements boil down to street maintenance and a few water projects, according to Guilfoyle.

"We don't want to do anything that we can't pay for in cash," he said.

It is Guilfoyle's tendency to plan for the worst that has made him comfortable enough to present the option to keep the mill levy flat at 20.1 mills for 2012 based on higher than usual cash balances at the end of recent years.

"A budget is basically saying how much money [the city] expects to bring in and how much we expect to spend," Guilfoyle said. "We always allow for the worst-case spending possible and hope that doesn't happen, the last few years it hasn't and we're in a good spot."

2009 left De Soto with the highest year-end cash balance in the city's history with $709K left over. That increased in 2010 and Guilfoyle expects to be in that neighborhood at the end of 2011.

"Having a good cash balance helps the city in two ways," he said. "The obvious one is it provides the city with a safety net should any unexpected emergencies occur and it helps us prevent the rollar coaster effect on our property tax rate."

Guilfoyle also warns that while the 2012 budget proposal doesn't call for a property tax increase he expects one to be needed for the next couple years.

"Our cash balance now is great but we don't want to rely on it too much because then we would be in trouble and taxes would go up by a lot all at once instead of a little over time."

One place Guilfoyle doesn't see an increase coming is in the water rate. The water fund has been stabilizing in recent years, even turing a profit for the first time in 2010.

The city is also seeing a reduction in the law enforcement budget. According to Guilfoyle, the contract between the city and the Johnson County Sheriff's Department for police coverage is $30,300 or 7.3 percent less than last year. This is due to a decrease in criminal activity and the amount of time deputies have needed to spend in De Soto in the past year he said.

The public is invited to speak regarding the budget at a public hearing before the regular city council meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 18.

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