Ignacio finds ways to boost general fund

Raised fees will help town after accounting slip

The town of Ignacio is slowly but surely finding ways to build up its fund balance after an accounting error revealed the town’s general fund had $555,000 less in it than thought.

During a budget workshop Tuesday night, the Town Board voted to increase the general fund by $62,000 though a combination of cuts to staff positions and salaries and increased fees on residents.

That’s in addition to $214,000 in savings and revenue increases staff members came up with on their own since the town’s first budget work session in early November.

At that first work session, trustees announced recent findings that capital assets such as pipelines and buildings had been mistakenly recorded as cash revenue in the town’s general fund. The error meant that instead of a general fund balance of just over $1 million, the balance was more like $535,000.

Despite the accounting error, the town is in the black. With the cuts and revenue approved since November, the 750-person town’s general fund balance for 2013 is estimated to be almost $750,000.

Yet the town is continuing to search for ways to increase its general fund balance to make up for annual losses in the water and sewer funds, said Lisa Rea, town treasurer.

According to the 2012 budget, the water fund will lose almost $30,000. According to the projected 2013 budget, the sewer fund will lose $12,000. Both funds are budgeted to receive $30,000 each from the town’s gas fund in order to keep them afloat.

Town trustees were divided in their support for ways to generate $62,000 in savings and revenue next year. The trustees voted 4-3 to remove a 2.5 percent cost-of-living allowance town employees were slated to receive next year, a move that saved $18,000. They voted 4-2 to save $20,000 by not filling a position for a police officer whose $60,000 salary would have been partially covered by a $40,000 grant from the Department of Justice.

Residents also will feel a financial impact, as town trustees approved motions to increase the monthly water fee by $5 per month and to increase the natural-gas rate to a flat $7.50 per thousand cubic feet per month.

Currently, the town charges an average of $6.88 per thousand cubic feet, but that price fluctuates with the outside market.

Together, those rate increases will generate about $45,000 annually.

Ignacio Mayor Ena Millich voted against all rate increases for residents, saying residents shouldn’t have to pay to make up for the town’s faulty accounting.

Millich also pushed for the town to consider hiring an independent analyst to review the town’s budget, its workforce and the staff’s workload. The other trustees didn’t embrace the idea.

At the end of the work session, most trustees agreed they had made good progress.

“It’s a beginning, and that is all we can do,” Trustee Tom Atencio said.

The board plans to vote on the budget next week.

ecowan@durangoherald.com

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