Budget looks at declining revenue for Aztec

Hannah Grover
Construction continues on the southern phase of the East Aztec Arterial Route off U.S. Highway 550 just south of Aztec.

AZTEC — The city is facing declining revenues as city officials put together budget their budget for fiscal year 2017.

City Manager Josh Ray presented a preliminary budget to the City Commission during a special work session Tuesday evening. The city has budgeted about $38 million for expenses for fiscal year 2017, mainly in the form of three large projects that have been on the city's plans for years — the East Aztec Arterial Route, the North Main Avenue corridor expansion and the sewer outfall line.

Ray said expenditures have remained consistent, and the budget projects a 2 percent decrease in expenses. However, the city has to find a way to balance its expenditures with its declining revenue, he said.

Ray said the city has been spending its money "and making projects happen, but we're getting to the point where not as many things can happen.

"If the last 36 months have been difficult for our local economy, then let's be realistic and say the next 36 months will be difficult," he said.

He said people can gauge how the economy is doing by watching the city's general fund.

The budget projects that fiscal year 2016 — which ends June 31 — will see an 11 percent decrease in general fund revenues compared to fiscal year 2015, according to the budget report. City officials predict that Aztec will end fiscal year 2015 with about $5.8 million in general fund revenue, and they predict the city will receive $5.5 million in general fund revenue in 2017.

In fiscal year 2009, the city had $7.5 million in general fund revenue, but in fiscal year 2010, that fell to $6.3 million. Ray said the commissioners were concerned about the low revenues in both 2009 and 2010.

"That extra $800,000 would be golden compared to this year's numbers," Ray said.

Commissioner Katee McClure said whole state is facing similar budget issues.

"There is only so far down we can go and still provide basic services," she said.

Commissioners also talked about potential utility rate increases. An increased sewer rate may be necessary to pay off the debt that the city has for upgrades to the system, which include the waste water treatment plant that was completed in 2010 and the sewer outfall line that will be installed this year.

McClure expressed concerns about increasing the sewer rates, which are already at least $18.60 a month.

"The sewer and the water (are) the big portion of the (utility) bill, not the electric," McClure said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.