The Jackson Town Council at its meeting last week heard some uplifting news about where the town’s budget stands up to this point in the fiscal year, as well as positive projections through the end of FY2021, which runs through June 30.
As a result of the solid financial standing, presented at a workshop by Town Manager Larry Pardee, the council opted to re-fund some items that were initially left out of the FY2021 budget due to concerns about revenue during the pandemic.
Through the first seven months of the FY2021, the town’s revenue from sales tax was $6,189,000 ahead of what was projected, Pardee said. While that’s great news, Pardee cautioned the council to remember that projections were cut by 50% in the current fiscal year due to uncertainties presented by COVID-19.
Also, Pardee noted, “We’re not collecting at the rate we were pre-COVID, but we’re doing better than anticipated year-to-date in this fiscal year of 2021.”
The town is seeing the same thing from lodging tax collections; lagging behind pre-pandemic collections, but far outpacing projections — to the tune of about $500,000 more than projections through the first seven months of the fiscal year, Pardee said.
Under the amended FY2021 budget, the town’s ending fund balance would have stood at just over $7 million.
“But due to the fact that we are ahead of collection [projections], expenditures are down, we project we could be — for the first seven months our projection anyway — is [an ending fund balance of] approximately $16.4 million,” Pardee told the council.
Councilor Arne Jorgensen asked if the budget update included any CARES Act funding. Pardee said “yes and no.”
While the town has applied for and been preliminarily approved for about $3.3 million of CARES Act funds, Jackson has only received around $320,000 to date and the final total the town will get relies on receipts and paperwork aligning with their application for the funds, so the $3.3 million could possibly be reduced, Pardee explained. Finance Director Kelly Thompson, though, said that while the remaining approximately $2.9 million in CARES Act funds is not reflected in the presentation through the end of January, it is included in the end-of-year projections, as they anticipate receiving it prior to June 30.
Ultimately, Pardee said, despite the tempered expectations coming into the current fiscal year, beginning with a $12.1 million fund balance, if the current trends continue through June “it is not out of the question that we could be plus-$17 million in final reserves” at the end of the fiscal year.
Pardee and Thompson also looked ahead to FY2022 with their projections, which they based on several factors and models. With a conservative projection, they also projected the fund balance to gain money in the upcoming year, though not nearly to the level of the current year’s projection of adding more than $5.5 million.
Because of the relatively rosy outlook, at least versus adapted expectations with the pandemic, Pardee asked that six things left out of the FY2021 budget be reinstated. Those items were 2.5% town staff raises, which would not be retroactive ($110,000 through the end of the fiscal year); fifth cent capital transfer for major town projects ($1.7 million); affordable housing transfer ($1 million); remove frozen central equipment charges that buy vehicles, police cars, dump trucks, loaders, etc. ($272,000); reinstating reduced health insurance payment ($364,000); and 2.5% raises for joint town/Teton County department staff ($70,000); totaling $3.516 million being reinstated into the FY2021 budget through the end of the year.
Pardee pointed out that if those requested budget amendments were approved, it would reduce the town’s projected ending fund balance for FY2021 from nearly $17.7 million to about $14.2 million. The council voted unanimously to approve Pardee’s requested budget amendments and were effusive in their praise of Pardee for his shrewd judgment and leadership.
Councilor Jonathan Schechter said, “I think this really is a nice testimony to the philosophy you encouraged us to take at the beginning of all of this mess a year ago, where, as you pointed out, it’s a lot easier to start with a more severe cut and add to it [later]. And so it’s very nice, and of course a good thing in general, but it’s also gratifying to see that your leadership on this paid off in terms of setting a tone and allowing us to be at this happy space. So, thank you.”