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Quincy on track to pay bills, save

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By Cheri Harris

The city of Quincy isn’t broke.

City Manager Jack McLean said the city has encountered financial challenges in part due to revenue drops from an unseasonably warm winter and cool summer in fiscal year 2010-11, which resulted in the city incurring $3.1 million payable compared to about $900,000 the prior year.

Because the city didn’t have enough money in reserves to cover that amount, McLean said the city used a Capital City Bank line of credit to cover expenses.

Another financial challenge has arisen, McLean said, because the city’s largest commercial customer has gone from paying on time to paying late for several months in a row.

Though the city has about $747,000 charged to its line of credit now, McLean said it should be able to pay it down by more than $500,000 by November, bringing that expense more in line with historic levels.

“Things are manageable,” McLean said, and you can see markers of improvement.”

McLean said the city is on track to continue paying down its bills and rebuilding its reserves — more than $1 million of which were earmarked to offset the $3.1 million in payables.

“There has been significant progress from that bad year to now, going from spending to saving,” McLean said.

The city’s new $31,064,867 budget, approved Sept. 24 by Quincy commissioners, includes more than $1.24 million for a road resurfacing program for repaving Flagler and Virginia streets with a storm water and street drainage system and resurfacing Martin Luther King, King Street, North Street, North Jackson Street, Ward Street, Cooper Street and Valley Drive.

The city has also allocated $75,000 for preparing an economic and development for downtown and the business park.

McLean said the total cost for the plan is $100,000, $25,000 of which should be covered by a state grant. The $75,000 should be covered by harvesting timber growing on business park property.

The budget also includes $15,000 for an actuarial study to determine the feasibility of maintaining the city’s two pension plans and retirees’ medical benefits. McLean said 48 percent of the police and firefighter payroll is currently spent on pension benefits and that should be 18 percent to 21 percent. He said the problem arose when pre-recession investment models were used in the plan model. He said he expects that 48 percent to drop by the end of the year.

He said the city also currently pays 100 percent of medical benefits for retirees, which is more than $100,000, at about $15,000 per retiree. In addition, the city currently pays 12 percent of an employee’s salary into a defined contribution plan.

“Most cities do not do that,” he said. He said police and firefighters contribute seven percent because they belong to a state plan.

He said the plan will evaluate the sustainability of these benefits for employees into the next 10 or 20 years.

A few years ago, McLean said the city’s payroll grew to cover 166 people.

“We couldn’t be the job relief,” he said.

Now the city has about 113 employees.

“That’s where we should stay,” McLean said.

Though the city does have plans to promote business growth, McLean said projections show revenues remaining flat at about $30 million in the near future.

The total city budget is .37 percent less than the fiscal year 2013 budget of $31,770.554.

Though smaller, the budget still includes money to continue the city’s beautification programs, more money for parks and recreation, and $40,000 to support the restoration of the historic post office building that has also served as Quincy Police Department headquarters.

McLean said when reports circulated that the city of Quincy had financial woes, he received a check in the mail for $100 from a business owner and a letter stating that if all the businesses in Quincy contributed $100, it should cure their money problems.

He said that really affected him.

“It says a lot about the community,” he said, “and the character of the people here.” 

Times Executive Editor Cheri Harris can be reached at 850-627-7649 or editor@gadcotimes.com.