By Jim Bloch
The Port Huron City Council recently reviewed the financial status of the city after the first three quarters of the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
“We’re trending well,” said City Manager James Freed, discussing the nine-month financial report produced by Edward P. Brennan, the city’s finance director, at the regular meeting of the city council May 11, as heard on the recording of the meeting is posted on the city’s website.
Brennan’s report compared the city’s finances as of March 31, 2020 with those as of March 31, 2019.
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“General fund revenues for the current nine month period have increased about 3.7%,” Brennan said. “The principal factors include increases in property tax revenue ($156,000), income tax revenue ($314,000) and state shared revenue ($179,000). Other revenue items are generally similar to prior years.”
Expenditures also were generally in line with the three-quarter mark.
“Expenditures through March 31, as a percentage of budget, are 74.2%, compared to 69.4% for the same period last year,” said Brenna. “In the aggregate, they are under the 75% you would expect after nine months.”
There were some exceptions, such as public improvements.
“Public Improvements are approximately $522,000 higher than they were in the third quarter of last year,” Brennan said. “This is the result of improvements to the Riverside Boat Launch, Lighthouse Beach and other recreation facilities.”
Investments in the pension system were another exception.
“… a one-time wage stipend paid in January increased costs by approximately $799,000 (approximately $518,000 in the General Fund),” said Brennan. “Payment of this stipend allowed the city to sell bonds and $52 million was transferred to MERS effective April 1. This will save the city millions of dollars in pension costs over the next 30 years.”
“We should still come in under budget,” Freed told the city council.
“Even with the situation as it is now?” asked Mayor Pauline Repp, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To be clear, we don’t know what that’s going to look like,” said Freed about the fourth quarter. “But we’ve also taken the mitigation measures — furloughs and cost reductions. When you throttle city government, a lot of costs are reduced. So we feel we should be close. But I don’t know.”
Council member Ken Harris asked about the apparently tenuous financial situation of McMorran Place.
“Are these numbers true — that McMorran spent $1.2 million and $144,000 in capital so far?” asked Harris.
According to Brennan’s figures, McMorran spent $1,225,928 for operations and $144,080 for capital improvements.
“Yes, the numbers are accurate,” said Freed.
“And the revenue is only $783,000?” asked Harris.
“Correct,” said Freed. “Remember that they’ve had to throttle their operations as of March. So McMorran will become an issue on the budget as this goes on because we don’t know what’s going to happen with McMorran — if they can have the hockey league back or anything like that. So yes, that will be a problem.”
The McMorran Arena website advises customers that “Due to COVID-19, all McMorran events are currently canceled until further notice.”
The cancellations include shows such as the Wheel of Fortune, A Will and Grace Murder Mystery Game, which had been scheduled for March 27-28; a ’50s and ’60s Music Spectacular, scheduled for April 22; the International Symphony Orchestra on April 25; the twice postponed Simon and Garfunkel tribute, March 27 and May 29; and all of the Port Huron Prowlers hockey games.
“We have had the most furloughs out of McMorran, so we’re trying to right-side our operations to account for the utilities and all that stuff,” said Freed.