WILKES-BARRE — The city ended the first quarter with a positive balance of approximately $9.4 million as higher user fees approved last year make an impact, according to a draft of the March financial report.
The city’s balance grew from approximately $5.8 million at the end of February.
Property and earned income tax payments, combined with a $3 million Tax Anticipation Note, accounted for most of the $17.4 million in revenues for the first three months of the year. Salaries and benefits made up the majority of the $8 million in expenses as of March 31.
City Administrator Ted Wampole said that for the most part, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
He addressed a question raised by the Times Leader about the two user fees increased to generate additional revenues to balance the $49.4 million general fund budget.
The hourly rate to park at a meter doubled to $2 from $1. Revenues from the nearly 900 meters totaled $171,828 or 17 percent of the $1 million budgeted this year. The quarterly figure was $49,828 more than the amount collected in 2017, according to the draft report.
“The meters are probably running about 40 percent ahead of last year,” Wampole said. In 2017, the quarterly total was $122,000.
Wampole pointed to a few things impacting revenue. The city did not have all the meters calibrated at the higher rate until the middle of January and more people are parking in the garages operated by the city and Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority, he said. The higher rate is designed to increase revenues and encourage people to use the garages for long-term parking and free up the meters for shorter stays.
When those factors are considered, “it is trending in the right direction,” Wampole said of the higher hourly rate.
The city also hiked the cost of garbage bags by 60 cents apiece and budgeted the higher fee to bring in $1.6 million in revenue. Through the first three months of the year, bag revenues totaled $227,527 or approximately 14 percent of the budgeted amount, according to the draft report. The quarterly total this year was $132,518 more than the $95,010 collected during the same period in 2017.
Wampole said he would have a better read on the garbage bag fees after conferring with the finance department. This year’s revenue was one-and-a-half times more than last year and the fee increase was only 30 percent, he noted.
Meanwhile, the city recorded “better than anticipated” revenues from tax liens on property, Wampole said. It has already brought in 105 percent of the $1 million budgeted, according to the report.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.