Three Rivers City Commission adopts FY25 budget

(Deborah Haak-Frost|Watershed Voice)

The Three Rivers City Commission signed off on the final version of the city’s budget Tuesday, 5-2, with Commissioners Lucas Allen and Chris Abel dissenting. The commission also approved updates to the user fee ordinance, with Abel voting no.

Neither Allen nor Abel gave comment during the meeting regarding their dissent, but have expressed dissatisfaction with the water and sewer rate increases in previous budget discussions. 

Mayor Tom Lowry noted a few highlights regarding the city’s finances for the upcoming year.

“We are not adopting a balanced budget this year, and that’s mainly because we couldn’t spend everything we wanted to in this last fiscal year,” Lowry said. “So, we put that money back in the general fund, [and] we’re continuing some projects. That’s the main reason. But it looks like we’re adopting a negative budget, but we have that money in the general fund, and it’s a very healthy general fund.”

Lowry noted several new part-time positions opening on the city’s staff, reflected in the fire department, library, and police department budget lines. 

When discussing the water and sewer rate increases of 2% and 4% respectively, Lowry reminded attendees the increase is for “the commodity price only.”

“Remember, our prices are made up of two things: one is an overhead rate, and then a commodity, which is how much [water] you actually use. We’re not raising the overhead rate; we’re just going to raise the commodity rate.”

Costs to the city in other areas have been increasing as well: the cost for insurance “amazingly” only went up 3%, said Lowry, but costs for retirement increased 14%.

Concluding his highlights, Lowry praised the increase in value of taxable property in the city, which is up to $216 million. “Just a few years ago, we were at $160 million. So, it has continued to grow every year in the city, and I just think that says that we’re in a healthy business environment, and a lot of people want to be here, both residential and factories.”

In other business, the commission…

  • Approved the release of $15,000 to River Country Sports Commission for maintenance expenses at Armstrong Park.
  • Heard from Commissioner Pat Dane, who reminded attendees about the upcoming election in August. The ballot includes a millage renewal proposal for the St. Joseph County Commission on Aging, and Dane said, “It’s really important that we get the word out so people can get out and vote to help the seniors in this area.”
  • Heard a question from Commissioner Carolyn McNary, who expressed concern about traffic safety at South Main Street and Sixth Street, near Dollar General and Shell. City Manager Joe Bippus reported he had looked at the intersection, and offered a few suggestions for improvements to visibility and traffic calming. 
  • Heard from Lowry, who encouraged attendees to participate in the Water Festival activities taking place in downtown Three Rivers next week.