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Dickinson reviews $215M for 2015 budget

As Dickinson’s population has grown, so has its budget.

In a preliminary look at the city’s 2015 annual appropriations by the Dickinson City Commission on Tuesday, City Administrator Shawn Kessel said added construction projects, sewer structure work and a number of new obligations, including the interim bypass and future West Dickinson Plan, make this year’s budget “much different than previous years’ budgets, for several reasons.”

Just four years ago, the city handled a total budget of about $21 million; the coming year will see approximately $215 million appropriated into several funds, calculated over 51 spreadsheets and without the assistance of a finance director.

“It’s a difficult way to conduct a budget of the size we are today,” Kessel said. “We’ve become a lot more complicated community when it comes to try to budget for operations and for capital.”

A number of the city’s 37 new requests for full-time staff are yet to be included in the budget; Kessel said some might be added to the general fund before a final version goes up for public discussion and approval by the commission. Until then, there is still some refining to do, Kessel said.

“A challenge is making sure we’re able to stay with the commissioners’ pledge of no increase in property taxes,” he said,” and yet making sure we meet the expectations of the residents when it comes to service delivery.”

The city could take in roughly $4 million in property taxes next year, but it’s a small portion of the total budget, Kessel noted.

City Commissioner Gene Jackson questioned whether the commission could expect the city’s roughly $120 million in debt to be covered by oil taxes; Kessel said the city could repay its debts within the next two or three years using oil tax funds.

Jackson said he doesn’t receive too many questions from the public, but when he does, they usually center around the “tremendous capital expenditures” the city is making.

“The point is that we have a plan, and we also have a backup plan,” he said. “I think it’s important that we talk about that once in a while.”

A revised version of the budget is expected to come before a public hearing at the commission’s next meeting on Sept. 15.

New city boundaries approved

After considering a map of extended extra-territorial boundaries at its last meeting in August, the commission approved its new map Tuesday.

Much of the expansion is toward the west and northwest of the city, including the future 6,100-acre plot being surveyed under the West Dickinson Area Study, with some added zoning in the northeast.

City ordinance limits boundary extensions to two miles at Dickinson’s current population, with some exceptions; Kessel said some places on the map slightly exceed two miles.

He said that when he presented the map to the Stark County Commission, their input was “to take advantage of more, if we so chose.”

Faulx is a reporter with The Press. Contact her at (701) 847-9164 or tweet her at NadyaFaulx