South Haven proposes $46M budget

SOUTH HAVEN — South Haven officials plan to spend $4 million on capital improvement projects this year as part of the proposed $46 million budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The budget was unveiled at this week’s city council meeting during a public hearing, in which there was no comment. Council members plan to formally adopt the budget at their June 3 meeting.

City Manager Brian Dissette said the dollar amount of the budget may seem quite large for a town the size of South Haven, but that’s because it entails more than just money spent on day-to-day city operations.

“It accounts for the general fund but also is largely bolstered by marina operations, sanitary sewer and water operations and electric operations,” he said.

The marina, beach, water, sewer and electric funds comprise nearly three quarters of the $46 million budget. The expenditures in those funds are paid for primarily by user fees.

A breakdown of the proposed budget shows deficit spending in some funds, such as the three street funds where the city expects to spend $2.1 million, for a loss of $260,000. The projected deficit however will be paid for from the three street fund balances, which will dip from $746,000 to a little under $580,000.

The increased expenditures result in part from $120,000 the city anticipates spending on a comprehensive inspection of the Dyckman drawbridge. Every five years the bridge undergoes a detailed inspection, according to Bill Hunter, director of the Department of Public Works.

The general fund, which pays for the general operations of the city, including police and fire, is one of the largest funds in South Haven’s overall budget. For the 2019-20 budget, the city anticipates revenues of $9,200,836 and expenditures of $9,194,976 for a slight surplus of $5,860.

About 40 percent of the general fund is spent on wages and benefits for the city council, city manager’s office, elections finance office, assessing office, city clerk and treasurer, police, information center, building services, engineering, development and highways and streets.

The city strives to maintain a 20 percent fund balance in its general fund each year. The proposed 2019-20 budget projects a $1.98 million surplus to be used in case of emergencies.

Capital improvement projects

Of the $4 million in capital improvements the city plans to undertake in the coming year, a new electric metering system will by far be the largest expenditure. Currently, the Department of Public Works employs meter readers who travel throughout the Board of Public Utilities’ service area each month to manually conduct electric meter readings. However, the city wants to install an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) that will allow the meters to be remotely monitored.

Smart meters, as they’re sometimes referred to, allow for more accurate reads, automatic power outage notification and more accurate monitoring of electrical power.

The new system is expected to cost $1.9 million, which will pay for new meters that will transmit data to two antennas which will then route the information to a computer system.

“It will improve customer service in the long run,” Hunter said. “Whenever there’s an outage we’ll know right away what’s out.”

The employees who are currently checking meters will most likely be assigned to other jobs within the DPW, according to Hunter.

Other capital improvement projects slated for the 2019-20 fiscal year include installation of a $586,000 splash pad at Riverfront Park (paid for in part by a $300,000 grant); a new $428,000 sidewalk on Aylworth Avenue from Indiana Avenue to Center Street; and $500,000 for repaving and cape sealing projects on portions of Kalamazoo, Van Buren, Hubbard, Florence, Broadway, Church and 73rd streets, and Monroe Boulevard.