Inside Beatrice: Finance Director
BEATRICE – The City of Beatrice has a budget. The community members of Beatrice fund that budget. But the money that accumulates comes from more than just paying taxes at the courthouse and goes to more than just paychecks of city employees.
Finance Director for the City of Beatrice Linda Koch says her job is more than just budgeting on fund.
“Well, I take care of all of the financial statements, take care of the budget process for all of the city funds. We have the Board of Public Works funds, which are electric, water, and WPC. Then all of the city general funds, which entail the police and fire protection, the parks, the library. Our street fund is separate and then all of our miscellaneous funds like when we bring in Keno revenue and the economic development fund and any grant funds and our capital improvement funds. So we do have a lot of different fund to keep track of the city finances and some of them are restricted and have to be kept track of separate.”
Each of the funds come from different areas, along with the taxes that are paid at the courthouse, the city also gets money from the water park, motor vehicle tax, Keno play, and more.
“When you go shop in Beatrice and you pay sales tax the state gets 5.5%, the city gets 1.5%. The retailer pays the 7% to the state and then the state remits back to the city, once a month, our share of that, so 1.5%.”
Money also comes from simply getting gas.
“The street fund receives money from the state which is called Highway Allocation Dollars and that money comes from the gas tax. When you pay at the pump, no matter where at, that is divvied up, the state has a formula for how much of that we get back and that has to go to the improvements of our streets and running of the street fund.
All of these funds help to keep rates even for members of the community. This happens because of the two, three, and five-year budget plans the city has. Koch says she likes the capital improvement plans most.
“I like the capital improvement plan over five-years so that way all of our funds we don’t, like I said, have spikes, in we need a lot of money this year and don’t need a lot of money next year. We try to plan it out so we are spending about the same amount every year in order to provide for equipment. You know, we have a fire truck and that’s a pretty expensive cost. Some stuff we will bond out over so many years so we can kind of keep that funding source for those projects level throughout the five-years.”
When large purchases arise, such as the purchase of a new fire truck, the city bonds money in order to help keep rates steady.
“The Legislature allows communities to levy $.05 for public safety. And we will bond out money every three to four years for those big purchases for public safety equipment. We can use that $.05 levy to repay those bonds on that equipment. So we will buy police cars, the firetrucks, the ambulances and that type of thing that are major purchases. That one year you need $700,000 well you can spread that out over three to four years then you repay the bonds.”
For large purchases that are not planned Koch says the city has to amend the budget to modify for those changes.
“If we have any changes, something came up, such as the year we had the lightning strike and the flood. Then of course we had expenses that were unanticipated and over our budget amount so we have to amend our budget before the end of the year to account for those expenditures.”
And when something must be fixed right away the city has a 30% reserve fund in case of emergencies.
“That’s why we have cash reserves. It’s very important that the city has at least three months cash reserves or about 30%, that’s where we are sitting right now if you take all of our funds together for things like that, that might come up like the lightning strike or the flood. Yes, we do get reimbursement once in a while from the insurance company or from FEMA for the flood. That money doesn’t come back in right away and of course we have to repair the electric system, we have to repair the 911 center right away, so we have to order those things and pay for it. So it is important the we have cash reserves on hand. To account for those unanticipated expenditures that may happen when we have to amend our budget.”
Koch says she just wants people to come to her for questions instead of listening to people that may not have all the information.
“Like I said, I just encourage the citizens, both the budget book that is approved by the council and our financial report are on the city’s website. If you ever have any questions regarding the city’s finances or budget I had a gentleman stop in the other day and ask about a grant we received for the trails. You know, I’m more than happy to talk with people and explain where those funding sources are coming from, getting grant money and to pay for something. I’d rather the citizens understand where their money is going than listen to the coffee shop talk of what they think may be happening.”
When community members spend money in their community chances are the money is going back to the community.