Days away from the two budget work sessions for the City of Williamsport, the third quarter financials appear to be on track for a good 2023 with wage and business tax coming in higher than anticipated, the city finance manager told the city finance committee.
The city budget work sessions are 7 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday and Tracey Rash, manager of Government Finance Solutions, who remains under contract with the city to align and reconcile accounts in the finance office, told the committee the encouraging news about this year’s finances.
Rash provided the committee with highlights on the pages.
“Which is really nice,” Councilwoman Liz Miele observed.
The committee was provided the third quarter budget actuals for this year.
Rash highlighted a number of items for the committee.
Specifically, revenue “variances” were spotlighted and listed individually.
“The bottom line in terms of revenue is we are doing well,” Rash said.
Both wage taxes and business taxes are coming in higher than originally anticipated, she said.
Some issues are a matter of getting receivables at the end of the year, so there are timing-related matters to finish.
As for expenses, the city should be running 75 percent as of Sept. 30, Rash said.
“We are actually running at 75.5 percent,” she said.
There are a couple of reasons for that, she added, and said they include health insurance buyouts which are not recorded until the end of the year.
Those specific items may look low but that is because the city has a buyout coming, she said.
Rent utilities from River Valley Transit Authority have not been recorded in either 2022 or this year. A question is not answered yet as to whether the city will actually owe those amounts or not, she said.
Stormwater fees for 2022 or this year also are not included, she said.
Also, 100 percent of capital projects and 100 percent of transfers have been taken as of Sept. 30, she said.
“There are a number of items that won’t be at 75 percent,” she noted.
So, the police and health insurance items may look lower but the city is awaiting those health insurance buyouts, she said.
Councilman Eric Beiter said the clarity provided by Rash was appreciated.
Councilman Randy Allison also said he appreciated Rash’s work and explanation on the finances.
“Our projections for the budget are within $43,000 of expenses right now,” Rash said. “We feel like we are running really tight against the budget expenditures.”
In other words, the city is projecting to come right at the budget needs and revenues are over a bit so that is good heading into 2024, Rash explained.
“As long was we are taking in more money than we expected to, I guess being almost directly on budget is not a bad thing,” Miele said.
“We have never historically I do not think operated in an environment in which we were necessarily accurate; we were always trying to over budget,” Miele said, adding it’s a good thing for the city to know what anticipated expenses will be.
It is good to be accurate, she said.
Mayor Derek Slaughter, who was just reelected for a second, four-year term, has said a priority of the administration was to get the city financial house in order.
This year’s budget did not carry a real estate tax increase.
A number of outstanding audits and state and federal investigations into prior year use of grants and money remain pending. The city remains in an investigation by the state Attorney General office as well as a special audit being done by the Federal Transit Administration.
The budget work sessions were realigned to occur prior to the Thanksgiving break, giving council members more time to digest the figures before they return in December for the two final meetings of the year.