For all the damage the pandemic wrought, a mid-year budget review suggests it has had little impact on Decatur revenue, Chief Financial Officer Kyle Demeester said Tuesday, which is good news for pickleball and tennis players.
The city's fiscal 2020 audited revenue was $71.54 million, and Demeester said that half way through fiscal 2021 the city is ahead of that pace by a slim 0.49%, or $175,000. In September, the previous City Council approved a conservative $65.1 million budget for fiscal 2021 due to an expectation that COVID-19 would hurt revenue. General fund revenue for pre-pandemic fiscal 2019 was $70.1 million.
Demeester said the unassigned fund balance is about $6 million.
The City Council on Monday approved $692,000 in additional expenses proposed by the city directors to go along with the mid-year budget review. The most expensive of the approved projects is a $300,000 upgrade to the city’s tennis and pickleball courts. The additional expenditures include $85,000 that will come from the Morgan County Regional Landfill account.
Parks and Recreation Director Jason Lake said members of the previous City Council asked him to look at repairing the city’s tennis courts.
“We want to redo all of the tennis courts around the city,” Lake said.
He said a big reason for upgrading the tennis courts is the city missed out on hosting a state high school tournament because of the condition of its courts.
Lake also is changing some of the tennis courts to pickleball courts. Aaron Lang, Parks and Recreation maintenance supervisor, said they plan to turn the three courts at Austin Junior High into pickleball courts. Wilson Morgan Park has six tennis courts, and they would like to add pickleball overlays to three of the courts so they can be used for both sports.
Pickleball is a sport that combines elements of badminton, table tennis and tennis. Two or four players use wood paddles and a plastic whiffle ball. A pickleball court is 20-by-44 feet for both doubles and singles.
Lang said the main difference in the two sports' courts is that pickleball uses a lower net than tennis.
At the work session, Demeester presented a $100,000 plan to redo the alley off Grant Street Northeast that ends between the RailYard restaurant and Whisk’d Café, both of which are owned by Tyler Jones.
However, Demeester removed it from the proposal Monday. Council President Jacob Ladner said an interest group hired Pugh Wright McAnally Engineering Services to work on a 3D map of the alley.
“We really don’t know how much it would cost,” Ladner said. “The alley is a good project. We just have to know if it’s financially viable.”
City Engineer Carl Prewitt said the initial plan is to add a concrete flume to help with drainage.
Jones said he’s glad to hear the city is working on a plan. His grandmother, Glenna Jones, owns two of the four buildings in the Second Avenue block between Grant and Johnston streets.
“I’d take any improvement to the alley even if they want to just paint and weed-eat,” Tyler Jones said.
Jones said the alley used to be gravel and “water pouring off the roofs from heavy rain is creating craters and causing problems.” The city paved the alley in 2019, but standing water remains a problem.
“It helps my businesses," Tyler Jones said of possible alley repairs, "but the real need is so it’s just not a liability.”
Councilman Billy Jackson said the city should ask the Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority to pay for or assist with the cost of upgrading this alley.
Demeester outlined the major changes between mid-year fiscal 2021 and mid-year fiscal 2020. Percentagewise, the largest gains — 10% each — were in alcohol taxes and online sales taxes. Gas taxes are up 5.7% compared to a year ago. Lodging taxes are down 8.1% compared to a year ago, and business license revenue is down 5.6%.
Other expenses approved by the council:
• Buy a street sweeper for Street and Environmental, $250,000.
• Engineering certification training, $2,000.
• Buy a robot painter to line athletic fields for Parks and Recreation. The council awarded the sale Monday to Turf Tank for a low bid of $45,750.
• Increase the required maintenance expenses for the Animal Services Building by $5,000.
• Add $75,000 for personnel to Sanitation out of the Landfill budget.
• Add $10,000 for compost operations out of the Landfill budget.