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Financial audit shows positive growth for Brighton

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — The city’s latest financial audit showed another strong year in which Brighton saw an increase in sales tax revenues and building permits issued. 

The city’s audit report for 2013 shows the city’s net position increased by 3 percent — about $7.6 million — largely due to an increase of revenues from the city’s sales and use tax, charges for services and grants.

Finance Director Dan Frelund said one-time fees for large projects was the biggest contributor to the city’s increase in net position. Revenues from the city’s business-type activities were up $600,000 to $21.3 million, with the largest revenue source – $13.9 million – coming from charges for services. 

“We had some large economic projects in the city where they applied for building permits and plan check fees for large projects that happened that were above budget,” Frelund said. 

Subsequently, revenues from capital grants and contributions followed at $6.6 million and total business-type expenditures decreased by $2 million to $17 million from 2012.

Another factor in the net position increase was the increase in the city’s governmental activities – up $6.2 million from 2012 to $38 million. The city’s financial report showed revenue from the city’s sales tax was the highest it’s been in a decade. Sales and use tax revenues increased by $2 million over 2012 to $21.6 million in 2013. 

Frelund said the reports point to a lot of economic activity.

“Economic indicators are showing solid but steady growth from 2012 to 2013, so we’re in a good trend. We’re positioned well,” Frelund said. 

Other primary revenue sources that contributed to the increase in the city’s governmental activities are charges for services, up $1.8 million from 2012 to $5.9 million, and a $2.4 million increase in revenues from operating and capital grants from 2102, up to $ 6.5 million in 2013. 

Expenditures from the city’s governmental activities also increased – by $7.9 million – from 2012 to a total of $38 million in 2013.

The city ended 2013 with a fund balance of $10.8 million in its general fund, a 1.9 million increase from 2012. Frelund said after the city’s required reserves was met, $2.9 million was available for the city to use. He reminded council that they used $1.7 million from fund balance this year for a budget amendment in May to hire additional staff, make a market rate adjustment for employees and to make other pressing needs.

Other items Frelund noted in regards to the audit, is that the city had set aside $425,000 in a benefits internal fund for its self-funded benefits program and that the city reduced its debt by $1.1 million in 2013. 

CPA Lyman Hamblin said he didn’t find any deficiencies in the city’s audit.

“Having done this audit for the past three years, I have seen some improvements and I have seen more that I’m very, very impressed with,” he said, adding the city has a very good financial staff.

Councilwoman Joan Kniss asked about a potential deficiency stemming from an end-of-the-year transaction made by Brighton Urban Renewal Authority. In 2013, BURA exceeded its budget by $707,241 because it paid some tax rebates that weren’t budgeted for and may be in violation of state statute. 

Frelund explained that BURA, like the city’s Cultural Arts Commission, is considered a component unit and is not considered part of the city’s primary government in the audit. He said if the state auditor were to look at it they would likely point it out and remind the city of the statute. He said they would continue to be watching the budget this year.

“We’re going to try to watch that so it doesn’t happen in the future,” he said.

 

In other business:

— Plans for the city’s utility assistance program are moving forward. The city is working to create a utility program similar to United Power’s round-up program and Finance Director Dan Frelund went over how the program would work. 

According to Frelund, the city’s utility customers would elect to allow the city to round up the amount they are being billed. The difference would then be put into a fund where city officials would help utility customers who demonstrate a need for assistance.

“It’s neighbors helping out other neighbors,” he said. “We never know when we’re going to get into a situation where we’re going to have a short-time financial need, so it could be a real unique program.”

Frelund explained it would be a staff-run program and that a customer in need would have to apply for the program. He said they would have to demonstrate that they demonstrate 12 months of timely payments, the award could be up to $300 and that they customers would be eligible for the program once every three years. 

Councilman Ken Kreutzer, who serves on United Power’s utility assistance board, said it’s amazing to see what good can be done from such a program. He suggested staff look for additional funds to help the program and that they may want to rethink the requirement of customers demonstrating 12 months of timely payments. From his experience, customers tend to get in deeper before they start asking for help. 

The city has set aside $25,000 for the program, which is planned to go live later this year. Frelund said they are anticipating 22 percent of the city’s utility customers will round up their bills, which would generate about $13,000 for the program annually.  

— Parks and Recreation Director Gary Wardle told council about a public art creation a local artist wanted to donate to Eagle View Adult Center. Local artist Gene Goff’s parents frequent the senior center and he would like to create a yucca plant out of steel and donate it in honor of them. 

Goff told council the base of the plant would be 48 inches and anchored into the ground by 18 inches of concrete. The leaves would be 24 inches, the stem would be five to six feet tall and the sculpture would be painted with high quality automotive paint.

The senior advisory board is supportive of the piece, will cover any costs associated with its maintenance and voted to accept the donation on June 4 for the senior center. The item also went before the city’s Cultural Arts Commission and was approved June 5. Council will be considering the item during its July 15 council meeting. 

— Public Information Director Kristen Chernosky and Information Technology Director Margaret Brocklander provided council with an overview of its website strategy. Chernosky said staff are working to make the website more user friendly for residents and that each department has a web author who is responsible for updating their respective pages. The pages are supervised by the PIO and supported by IT and the city’s web administrator

Brocklander said the IT staff would like to implement a number of e-services on the website in the future. Future e-services the city would like to offer would include allowing residents to pay their traffic tickets or court citations online, submit and pay for building permits online, schedule inspections, pay animal control citations, the ability to search for available pets online, and the ability to search for burial records.

“We need the software in house before we can move in this direction,” Brocklander said. 

— Councilwoman Joan Kniss asked council members what they thought about holding coffee and conversations meetings with members of their wards. Council decided it would continue the discussion at a later date.