By Frank Diez
For the first time in seven years, Buena Vista ended its budget year with a surplus.
City Manager Jay Scudder reported to City Council that the year ending June 30 concluded with a surplus of about $280,000, meaning the city spent less than it collected in revenue.
Scudder attributed the surplus to responsible budgeting and better-than-anticipated revenues.
“Everything has varying costs,” Scudder said. “We just had to do a lot of budgeting and make hard decisions.”
Last year, Buena Vista’s balance was $123,000 less than what was budgeted..
Scudder says some fees and taxes, including the property tax, had to be raised. The property tax rate increased from 93 cents to $1.07 per $100 of assessed value. Rockbridge County’s and Lexington’s rates are much lower, at 67 cents and 83 cents per $100, respectively. But Scudder said those neighboring localities don’t come up short at the end of the year.
“We wanted to end up with a positive budget this year, unlike the last five years, where we were always in the red,” he said.
City Finance Director Tim Dudley says revenue rose in every category. Property tax collections were $114,000 higher than expected, he said, and local sales, communication and other taxes were $92,000 over budget.
Spending was down in some categories. Social Services, with a budget of $1,250,000, used $194,000 less than expected.
“That money goes toward things like food stamps and kids who are in special programs,” Dudley says. “It was really just less spending overall instead of a specific place.”
Scudder said one of the bigger sources of revenue for the year was The Vista Links golf course. Most of the financial loss from previous years was because of Vista Links’ debt and operating losses. This year, the golf course generated $472,000, which was $50,000 over budget.
“Unfortunately there’s still a lot of debt that needs to be paid for the golf course,” Dudley said. “It’s close to $330,000 a year.” The golf course revenue will go toward paying off that debt, he said.
Buena Vista schools did need more money than they were budgeted, so they were given $154,000 of leftover money from other areas. And $92,000 of the surplus went to fund parks and recreation.
“We tried to get more aware of watching the budget throughout the year and not waste anything,” Dudley said. “If you budget revenues and expenditures conservatively, you’ll get a surplus.”
Dudley says the city also needs to make sure that there’s enough money for anything that happens out of the ordinary. The budget needs to take into account things that are beyond anyone’s control, such as a natural disaster.
“There needs to be a balance to pay for certain things,” he said. “That’s how you really manage your budget.”