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story.lead_photo.caption Structural steel is in place and roofing began at the new Fulton recreation center in Veterans Park. The Fulton Parks and Recreation Department has requested $135,000 in capital expenditures for 2021, compared to more than $9 million to build the center for 2020. For a tour of the building, visit bit.ly/3dAISe7. Photo by Helen Wilbers / Fulton Sun.

Fulton departments' wish lists are extra-short this year.

During Tuesday's meeting, Fulton City Council members reviewed capital expenditures requested by all departments for 2021. Capital project funds requested by all city departments — from the general and enterprise funds — total $3,323,600, compared to $14,064,858 approved in 2020.

"In a typical year, this is a wish list — in a typical year," Fulton Director of Administration Bill Johnson said. "And I think the department heads actually went through it once with the wish list in mind, but then due to the COVID-19 issues I asked the department heads to, instead of doing their wish list, do a bare-bones, minimum, what do you really think you're going to have to have (list)."

The capital budget for 2020 was unusually large due to including $9 million for the recreation center currently under construction at Veterans Park. However, even discounting that $9 million from 2020's budget, this year's requested amount is still $1.74 million less than the remainder.

Johnson has worked together with Assistant Director of Administration Robert Boone and Chief Financial Officer Kathy Holschlag to prepare a slim 2021 budget, along with potential cuts for the latter half of 2020 — in anticipation that the pandemic could negatively impact the city's sales tax revenue.

"I'm very comfortable, unless things go drastically south for an extended period of time, that we'll be just fine in 2020 with drawing back on some of the capital expenditures we have budget — if we kind of restrict those and say 'nope, we're not going to buy it this year,"' he said.

The trimmed 2021 capital budget request list is part of that process, though it won't be finalized until sometime in October.

Holschlag said April's municipal sales tax receipts were less dismal than expected.

"Don't pay attention to the month-to-date, look at the year-to-date," she said. "Our sales tax collections are right in line with the same time period last year."

Of course, that could all "go to heck" if May's numbers are significantly worse, Johnson said.

"I will say, just because something is listed in here, doesn't mean it's going to be in the 2021 operational budget, doesn't mean it's going to make it in come October," he added. "On the other hand, just because something's not in here, doesn't mean it (won't) be in the budget."

In fact, he said, the list was largely drafted prior to the passage of the use tax earlier this month. As the first $400,000 in revenue from that tax has been set aside for the Fulton Fire Department and Fulton Police Department's capital needs, the two departments may tweak their request lists by October.

"Knowing the two departments, the numbers will probably go up," Johnson said.

The request document, prepared by Boone, notes many items adopted in the 2020 capital budget have been postponed or eliminated due to the COVID-19 epidemic — not all of that $14.1 million has been spent.

"Things that are in the 2020 budget could potentially move to 2021," Ward 1's Ballard Simmons pointed out.

The equipment requested for 2021 ranges from a $2,500 to replace fire hose nozzles for the Fulton Fire Department to $250,000 for a new 60-foot bucket truck in the electric department. The budget also includes recurring items from several departments — for example, the city sets $150,000 annually for sewer replacement and another $150,000 for upkeep on water mains.

The electric department's total was highest at $811,000, followed by the gas department at $612,500.

The purchasing, finance, planning and protective services, traffic control, building and grounds, cemeteries and pool departments made no capital fund requests.

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