Following a months-long process, Davenport aldermen are expected to approve the city’s proposed $226.6 million budget Wednesday night.
The spending plan sets aside $144.7 million for city operations and $32.5 million to pay down debt. Also included is a $49.3 million capital bill, putting money toward an ongoing riverfront improvement plan, citywide road repairs, a major sewer line overhaul and several other projects.
Council members last week added the budget’s passage to the consent agenda for Wednesday, a sign the matter could be approved with no discussion during the council meeting. City officials — both on the council bench and city payroll — have expressed broad support, saying the priorities expressed by aldermen and surveyed city residents are reflected in the numbers.
“There’s always more that you want to be able to do,” said Alderwoman Marion Meginnis, 3rd Ward. But, she added: “There’s also the reality of what it costs to run a city.”
Operating costs increasing
The city’s proposed $144.7 million operating budget is a 5 percent increase over the current year, a figure largely attributable to salary and benefit increases.
Salaries and benefits are increasing by about $2 million, which includes four additional police officers. Other major increases are in the city’s allocated costs, an increase of roughly $500,000.
Still, city officials have sought to keep employee costs down, recently implementing an early retirement option that 24 employees took. That is expected to save the city about $420,000 next year.
Meanwhile, the city is preparing for changes if revenue from state and local sources changes.
City officials removed much of Davenport's dependence on a $3 million block grant known as the backfill, which state lawmakers may do away with. And while the city saw about 4 percent growth in its tax base, tax breaks under state law have changed how property tax revenue is captured from commercial and multi-residential sources.
About 40 percent of the city’s proposed capital improvement budget is earmarked for the streets network over six years.
Next fiscal year, that includes $2.3 million for neighborhood street repairs, $4.6 million for high-volume streets and $1 million for a lane-widening project on 53rd Avenue — the city’s share of a major project that’s getting millions from the federal transportation department.
City officials — including Mayor Frank Klipsch in his State of the City address — have lauded the investment in city streets.
“I have never seen a budget where we put more in street maintenance than the one that we have right now in front of us,” Brandon Wright, Davenport’s assistant city administrator and finance director, said Tuesday.
That is a reflection of a 2018 citizen survey, where street conditions were a major concern, with roughly 80 percent calling it a top priority, and 44 percent said the streets were in “poor” condition, the lowest possible ranking.
Also on the docket is a long-awaited overhaul of the decades-old sewer lines.
State-ordered repairs in 2013 called on the city to make major improvements. The proposed budget calls for $11.8 million for sewer and water treatment upgrades during the upcoming fiscal year. That includes a $3.2 million investment in a major artery that runs from the city’s eastern border through downtown, plus $5 million toward a project to disinfect the region’s wastewater treatment plant.
Other capital improvements include the next phase of riverfront development, ongoing improvements to Modern Woodmen Park and a new roof for the city’s public works building.
What happens after a budget passes?
After passage, city budgets go to the Scott County auditor’s office for certification, a technical step required under Iowa law. There, the county auditor makes sure the city followed state procedures, such as correctly publishing information of public hearings, levy amounts and property taxes.
Whatever happens, the city is required to have its budget certified by March 15 — or risk losing out on tax revenue for that fiscal year. There’s something of a joke among budgeteers about the consequences of missing that deadline, said Davenport’s Wright: “If you don’t get this certified by the county by March 15, don’t show up on March 16.”