By Nick Worth
The City of Holbrook will be holding public hearings for an upcoming budget override election scheduled to take place on Tuesday, May 20.
According to City Finance Director Randy Sullivan, the override is necessary in order to provide funds for upcoming road work.
“We’re asking voters to approve a $500,000 maximum spending cap above the state’s limitation,” Sullivan said. “I’ve been transferring $500,000 into HURF (Highway User Revenue Fund) funds for road work, but I have to pull that back this year, because jail fees are going up.”
The first public hearing on the upcoming election will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25, during the city council’s regular session at city hall.
The second meeting will be held from 12 noon to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 1, at the Holbrook Public Library, followed by a third meeting at 6 p.m. at city hall.
Sullivan and City Manager Ray Alley decided not to hold an election for home rule the last time it came up, feeling they would be able to operate under the state-imposed limits. At the time, they thought road work and repairs were excludable under the state-imposed limitations. That proved not to be the case and the result is that the city now has more income than it can legally spend.
According to Sullivan, by law the override election must be held on the third Tuesday in May.
“The state has set our expenditure limit at $6.8 million, based on 1978 population numbers,” he said. “We can’t go back to home rule until the fall of 2015 and it wouldn’t take effect until the 2016-17 fiscal year, so we have two or three years we have to contend with under the state limitation.”
In a Feb. 3 article in The Tribune-News, Sullivan stated the override election would not result in voters having to pay more in taxes.
“We’re receiving more money than the state will allow us to spend,” Sullivan said. “The voters won’t be hit in the pocketbook at all, but they’ll get some road construction out of it.”
At the city council meeting Tuesday night, Sullivan told the council this override election is a one-time fix for this coming fiscal year only.
Asked what the voters would get for approving the override election, Alley repeated there would be no cost to the voters, but it would allow him to spend money the city already has for road and infrastructure repairs.
“If it passes, I want to pave additional roads in the McLaws Road area,” Alley said. He added that Heywood Avenue would be finished in the coming year whether the election passed or not.
“I have the money for Heywood,” Alley said.
According to Alley, other road projects which need the funding provided by the override election are First Avenue, the Catholic church and the LDS church, Erie Street to Eighth Avenue, the intersection of Florida Street and Third Avenue, and roads in the Clearview Heights area.
“We also need it for all the sewer lift station improvements,” Alley said. “We need new pumps, valves and computer sensors for the telemetry system.”
He also noted the sewer main on Seventh Street by Park Elementary School is in need of replacement.
Sullivan said the override is especially important, as increased jail costs will not allow for money to be taken from the general fund for street work, as it has been during the past year.
“If the override doesn’t pass, it will shut down the infrastructure improvements,” he said.
By Nick Worth