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Vader looking at possibility of a surplus as 2013 books are closed

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The City of Vader may be looking at a financial surplus in their General Fund for 2014 as City Hall begins to close the books on last year.

It was reported during the March 13 Vader City Council meeting that, between unexpected tax revenues and lower-than-anticipated expenses during 2013, the city could be looking at a surplus of between $25,000 and $30,000 in unexpected carryover.

"That’s definitely preliminary numbers," said City Clerk Jill Neilson, stating some costs for 2013 have yet to be expended and a specific amount for the surplus will not be available until the books are closed at the end of May.

Neilson went on to explain the surplus came about because of roughly $10,000 in unexpected property taxes gathered last year, as well as unexpended funds in departments such as law enforcement, as Vader had opted to use the services of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office rather than reconstitute the Vader Police Department.

She also said budgets set aside for parks and street improvements contained unexpended funding at the end of last year, but these funds are being rolled over into the same budgets and are not included in the estimates for unencumbered carryover.

"This is the first time in my brief tenure as mayor to have to deal with this," said Mayor Ken Smith of the surplus, telling the council they were not yet obligated to find means of expending the funds, but were encouraged to entertain options for possible improvements and projects the funding could support.

"I can tell you," continued Smith, "from surveys that we have been conducted in the past that, as far as the residents of Vader are concerned, they have three top-priority issues: the first is streets—they can’t stand the outrageous nature of our streets; number two is our parks; and, number three, they can’t stand the trash and clunkers that are littering the residences of Vader."

Smith explained around $23,000 is being set aside in the 2014 budget for street improvements, between anticipated funding for this year and carryover from 2013, and said one option would be to contribute a portion of the surplus to these funds and check a greater number of problem streets off the city’s to-do list.

"Members of the council could identify and revisit the top-five problem areas in the city and make the decision relating to the best use of those funds," he said.

Smith also said an option could be for the city to purchase a parcel of land directly south of Werden Park owned by the Vader Assembly of God, stating the church has offered to sell the property in the past if the city were interested. Smith said this land could be incorporated into the park and grants could then be pursued to add playground and recreational equipment to the facility.

Vader’s need for enforceable nuisance ordinances was also presented as a concern, particularly as the council has recently been advised by City Attorney Carol Morris to hire a city planner for such tasks.

It was reported earlier this year that Morris had informed the city of their need for a qualified planner and had specifically suggested the services of Rob White, who works for the City of Ruston. Upon initial examination, White’s fees, which include a $300 monthly retainer on top of a charge of $150 per hour, were far more than Vader was willing to expend for such services.

However, it was reported by Smith and Neilson March 13 that, upon investigating low-cost alternatives and talking to professionals in the field, White’s fees may not be unreasonable compared to the quality of his services, with Smith noting, "It may very well be that we get what we pay for," and adding city planning "is probably the number-one critical challenge facing our city."

In addition to using the surplus toward specific endeavors, it was also discussed the city could retain the money for use when grant opportunities arise requiring matching funds. Neilson explained Vader has had to pass on grants in the past because the city was unable to qualify due to a requirement for matching funds, and she said it would be possible to stretch the surplus even further through matching grants if the city were to seek them out.

Council Member Kevin Flynn stated he felt such grants for parks and roadways were worth looking into, stating, "I think the first thing we ought to do is look for matching funds and see what is available."

Smith again stated it was not required of the council to commit the funding at that time and said he expects their options will be discussed further at Thursday’s council meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in City Hall. Those with questions or in need of accommodations may call (360) 295-3222.

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