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Despite odds, city of Moses Lake’s finances improved through COVID-19

by SAM FLETCHER
Staff Writer | April 29, 2021 1:00 AM

“We should do a little dance, a little nice jig, because when COVID hit, we didn’t know what 2020 would end up looking like,” said Cindy Jensen, Moses Lake’s finance director.

Moses Lake spent the year anticipating a dip into reserve funds, she said at Tuesday’s city council meeting. However, the federal government’s CARES Act and the year’s property tax prevented this and actually increased city funds.

“Between those two things, I’m thinking for a long time ‘we better break even, we better break even,’ but the CARES Act and the property tax actually put us over the top,” Jensen said.

The city received just over $1 million through the CARES Act, some of which was allocated directly to COVID-19 issues, making the net amount recorded in the general fund as $839,000. This source of revenue included both the SAFER grant for additional firefighters and the COPS grant for additional police officers.

The city’s property tax grew its revenue by 4.4% through 2020, which includes the payment of more than $400,000 in December from a delinquent taxpayer. This unexpected collection pushed the city well within budget and contributed to the overall increase in the general fund.

Total city revenues were $76,762,600, while total expenditures were $75,449,569, netting a citywide increase in fund balance of $1,313,031.

Jensen put forth typical budget transfer recommendations at Tuesday’s city council meeting, including a general fund transfer of $200,000 to replace police equipment and add new officers, as well as $150,000 for new fire equipment.

She also recommended transferring $500,000 from wastewater funds to the capital fund, as wastewater can handle the decrease, she said.

City Manager Allison Williams also recommended initiating a process to portion money to a rainy day fund to ensure stability moving forward.

All of these recommendations were approved with a 7-0 city council vote.

“It’s a very good report,” Jensen said. “It was a good year on top of all the uncertainty through it all.”