Following a lengthy discussion, the Lansing City Council Thursday approved a fiscal year 2014 budget that will result in a 1-mill increase for the city's property owners.

Following a lengthy discussion, the Lansing City Council Thursday approved a fiscal year 2014 budget that will result in a 1-mill increase for the city's property owners.

The council had previously reviewed the budget in a pair of work session items in recent months. But as of last week, council members admitted they still had questions on the spending outlined in the document.

“This budget is a very conservative one,” said City Administrator Mike Smith, explaining some of its items.

Spending was mostly flat for 2014, with cuts to street department operations. However, Smith had forwarded four recommendations for capital and supplemental expenditures next year: The additional of an assistant city administrator position drawn from among the existing employees but with a salary upgrade worth $10,000; upgrades to the facility management software used by the wastewater department at a cost of $99,138; and the purchase of a backhoe for $100,000 and heavy-duty diesel truck for $55,000 out of the city's equipment reserve fund.

Also included in the published budget was a 1-mill increase, said to allow the city to issue financing necessary to undertake sewer and road improvements at the site of the new Lansing High School. Including that funding would bring the city's property tax levy to 40.898 mills.

One by one, the council debated and asked questions on each of those supplemental expenditures.

“Is it cost effective to rent it instead of buy it?” asked Councilman Gregg Buehler, referring to the backhoe that would primarily be used by public works.

Public Works Director John Young said it would not, because of transport costs and the specific needs of the department for it ― spontaneous repairs as much as planned uses.

The heavy duty truck, ostensibly for parks and recreation but likely to be used by other departments, was also debated, but council members decided to keep it in, along with the wastewater software and the mill for school site improvements. The assistant city administrator position, however, was eliminated by agreement by council members.

“Two lines above it in the book was the Activity Center building study, which was one of our priorities for this year, when we sat here that morning,” Buehler said, referring to an annual planning session the council conducted in the winter that resulted in a long list of long-term priorities. “That study's $15,000 and that $10,000 funds two-thirds of it.”

The remaining money could be taken from the city's parks and recreation fund, made up of the parkland fees developers pay as part of the construction process.

But the inclusion of the truck and the backhoe points to a future issue ― City Finance Director Beth Sanford said at the end of the 2013 budget year, the city is expected to have about $238,000 in its general reserve fund, down from about $1 million several years earlier and short of the roughly $600,000 Sanford said was recommended for a city like Lansing.

“I know that the general fund is not our goal, but I think it needs to be a consideration, because we've spent four-fifths of our reserves now,” said Councilwoman Andi Pawlowski.

Councilman Gene Kirby later said he thought that the city also needs to start planning not just for what projects it wishes to complete in its long-range priorities.

“You can have all this other stuff, but if we haven't got the equipment to take care of it, it doesn't mean anything,” he said.

Following a public hearing in which no one spoke for or against the budget, the council approved it, 7-1, with Pawlowski opposed.