Williams officials announced at the City Council’s March 20 meeting that the city received a “clean” audit report for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, although it concluded General Fund revenues were down from the previous year, and not up as many people believe.
The report, delivered by Finance Director Rex Greenbaun, essentially disputed a recent OP-ED written by former Mayor Chuck Bergson, who claimed that the city had received such a large influx of cash from recent developments that it should be able to fix its crumbling facilities, including the roads.
“I think there is a perception that the city is flush with cash,” Greenbaun said. “I think the city has worked to be fiscally responsible. I think this (report) shows we have invested in our streets…(but) we just front-loaded the costs, which is why the street fund shows a deficit balance.”
City Manager Frank Kennedy said the city approved a number of street improvements and equipment purchases in the past year, but that they essentially borrowed from themselves in advance to do as much work as they could.
“We went into debt with ourselves and have to pay it back,” Kennedy said.
According to the audit report, the 2018 General Fund revenues in the amount of $3,817,841. In 2018 there was a decrease of $124,000, from $3,942,241 the previous year. Of that amount, $103,000 was a decrease in sales and local taxes, largely as a result in the drop in the price of gasoline.
“When gas goes down, our tax revenue from gas taxes go down,” City Councilman John Troughton said. “That has been the trend.”
Troughton said the city was not in the financial position to start building new roads, especially without knowing what the future has in store.
Troughton believes the city must have Love’s Truck Stop opened for at least one year before the city knows exactly how much “new” revenue will be generated from the project, as lower cost gasoline also just draws customers from other local stations.
The city did see an increase of 9.1 percent in 2018 of taxes collected on local motels and hotels, but believe that was a temporary boon due to the increase in occupancy of people displaced by California wildfires.
While overall revenue for the fiscal year ending June 2018 decreased, expenses increased, officials said. Expenses totaled $5,410,889, up $220,752, a 1.1 percent increase.
“We are not flush with money,” said Troughton, who added that Bergson’s perception of the city’s finances bothered him tremendously.
Troughton said the City Council did start an infrastructure fund last year, and plans to deposit $100,000 a year to help with street and facility improvements going forward. ■