Seward, Alaska (September 21, 2015) – The City of Seward ended the calendar year 2014 in strong financial position, while also making substantial improvements to capital infrastructure. The City’s General Fund – the City’s main operating fund which is funded primarily with tax dollars -- ended the year with a fund balance of $4.7 million, representing 32% of annual expenditures and recurring transfers, which falls within the City’s goal of between 25% and 50%.
During the year, the City Council authorized a one-time transfer of $1.53 million out of the General Fund for future infrastructure repairs. When combined with the General Fund fund balance, this brings the City’s reserves to among the highest level in decades, putting the City in a stronger position to fund major infrastructure repairs and to weather upcoming State budget cuts, unforeseen needs, and emergencies.
The General Fund ended the year with reduced reserves, down by $1,228,695 from 2013, but considering the one-time transfer of $1.53 million for future infrastructure improvements, the Fund otherwise generated a surplus of revenues over expenditures of $307,183.
The General Fund contributed $350,000 toward the purchase of a 330-ton boat lift at the Seward Marine Industrial Center, transferred $241,272 of raw fish tax to the Harbor to help fund harbor improvements, shared one-half of harbor land lease revenues with the Harbor, and contributed $134,704 to the Electric Fund to repay a loan.
The Harbor received a major state grant to replace four of the oldest remaining floats in the harbor, with construction pending in 2015/2016 on A,B,C and S Floats, and recent replacement of D Float. The harbormaster building roof was painted and repaired, harbor restrooms were upgraded, the north launch ramp was partially repaired, and funds were received to upgrade the northeast fish cleaning station. Grant monies funded a new pump between E and F floats, and Federal grant funds totaling $11.4 million were recorded to reflect the US Army Corps’ contributions to complete the harbor breakwater. The harbor received $961,178 in cruise ship taxes which were used, in part, to fund summer shuttle bus transportation, the City’s share of harbor breakwater construction, ambulance services, signage, upgrades and safety improvements for cruise ship passengers, and other port and harbor improvements. The Harbor experienced a loss from operations of $389,818, ending the year with a cash balance of $1,080,479.
A number of major capital projects were started and/or completed including replacing two World War II vintage electric generators which supply backup electricity to Seward during power outages, and the housing of those generators in a nearly completed new electric generator warehouse building. Additional generators are also being moved into the new warehouse to extend the life and reliability of this critical equipment. Additional repairs and upgrades include underground electric lines in Camelot Subdivision, transformer upgrades and repairs, underground lines at SMIC, implementing a new inventory control system, a switch at Nash Road, pole replacement at Lawing/Victor Creek and system upgrades at Questa Woods. The Fund ended the year with an increase in cash of $809,039, bringing the cash balance to $3.1 million. The increase in cash is the result of targeted efforts to reduce spending and increase rates to address critical and high-risk capital needs in the electric utility.
Seward Marine Industrial Fund
The Seward Marine Industrial Center (SMIC) is undergoing a major breakwater construction project with $20 million in state funds available to enclose the basin to allow safe moorage for large marine vessels such as fishing boats, tug boats, barges, and transportation and shipping vessels. This Fund experienced an operating loss of $543,865 due to depreciation of $602,368, ending the year with no cash. The General Fund of the City, not the Harbor Fund, covers cash shortfalls in the SMIC Fund. The Fund borrowed $1,029,087 from the Motor Pool to purchase a 330-ton boat lift to replace the previous 250-ton lift which was traded in. The future looks bright for SMIC as enclosure of the basin and purchase of the shipyard by Vigor Marine stand to attract more interest in long-term property leases, utility expansion and marine-related business at the marine industrial center.
Construction has begun on a new 600,000 gallon water storage tank in Forest Acres to increase storage capacity and retain fire-fighting capabilities during the highest use summer period, where water usage is high for fisheries, the Alaska Sealife Center, cruise ships, etc. This tank is being constructed primarily with state grant funds exceeding $4.5 million, and does not require incurring any debt. The Water Fund contributed $500,000 to the wastewater system in 2014 to assist with the cost of dredging and repairing both sewer lagoons. The Fund experienced an increase in operating earnings of $79,058 and ended the year with a cash balance of $1,050,027. During the year, the Water Fund transferred $1.3 million of its cash to the Water Major Repair and Replacement Fund for future replacement of capital assets. The Water Fund owes $1.8 million to DEC for replacement of the Third Avenue water line, which will be paid off in 2027.
The City’s sewer system completed major repairs and dredging of both of its sewer lagoons at Lowell Point and SMIC, representing two of its largest capital assets. The Fund retired the previous lagoon loans with DEC in 2014, and incurred new 20-year 1.5% interest loans with DEC for the recent dredging and repairs totaling approximately $1.5 million.
Other 2014 Highlights
• The primary care clinic became a federally qualified health center, bringing in $864,354 in federal funds to improve access to care for the uninsured and underinsured in our community. A $700,000 contribution from the City's 1% sales tax dedicated to healthcare services was contributed for start-up costs for the clinic, as well as $150,000 for building and capital needs
• Received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 20th consecutive year
• A new teen Rec Room occupies the former museum space, providing a safe and healthy venue for Seward’s teens to study, recreate, and make positive use of leisure time
• Space was leased to the He Will Provide food pantry in the basement of the City Hall annex
• Overall City debt decreased $931,134 due to standard bond and capital lease payments, and refinancing two harbor bonds to take advantage of historic low interest rates
• The second phase of ADA sidewalk improvements was completed
• The City implemented a fully integrated financial accounting system
• Conducted a rate review of the City’s electric utility
• Increased funding to the Senior Center from $60,000 to $75,000, to the Chamber of Commerce from $170,000 to $190,000, and contributed $25,000 to the Boys and Girls Club
• Installed automated pay stations on the campgrounds at a cost of $97,000, improving customer service and reducing future costs and risks associated with cash handling
• Received $1,621,068 in operating grants, including $864,354 for operations of the Seward Community Health Center and $472,944 for harbor, electric, water and sewer projects, with the remainder covering general fund functions such as public works, parks and recreation, and the library