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Menahga Council delays setting preliminary levy

Setting the preliminary budget and levy was listed on the Menahga City Council’s Sept. 17 agenda, but was postponed until their Tuesday, Sept. 24 special meeting.

City Administrator Curt Kreklau printed out 2019 budget-to-actual fund summaries for the council.

“Basically, we have two jobs before Sept. 30. One is to adopt the budget. Second is to adopt a preliminary levy,” he said, adding the final levy will be set in December.

Kreklau said Banyon, the city’s accounting program, had a software update on the prior day, Sept. 16. “The reporting has changed, so we did a little tap dancing, a lot of struggling to redo reporting formats,” he said.

Council member Karol Andreasen noted there was a $770.75 deficient in fire truck expenditures. She wondered if the city needed to budget for that in 2019.

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Fire Chief Dave Kicker speculated that was a depreciation amount since the fire truck is paid off.

“How can you set a budget if you’ve got zeroes? You can’t,” said Andreasen.

Mayor Joan Liimatta asked about all the zeroes in the printouts related to the street department, among others.

“That’s what we’ve got in the system right now,” Kreklau said. He directed the council’s attention to fund balance reports, as of September 2019, comparing 2018 to 2019.

Kreklau said general fund expenditures are roughly $100,000 more than last year. Local Government Aid is $26,000 more than 2018, “so we’re looking at $73,000 more expenses in the general fund.”

“Salaries vary roughly $10,000, but with the status quo order, all we can do is maintain step increases, so there is no cost of living. Health insurance is roughly $14,000 higher across the board,” he continued.

Kim Rasmussen, a former council member seated in the audience, expressed concern about the council trying to set a preliminary budget with “absent information.”

As an example, she pointed out that there’s a reason the city didn’t budget for police training in 2019.

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“I’m afraid you’re going to go into budget or levy time and say, ‘We didn’t budget anything last year, we need to budget $5,000 for training.’ Well, you really don’t need to because that is state reimbursed,” Rasmussen said. “I’m concerned that you’re going to adopt things and set a budget and you really don’t know, line by line, where you’re even at.”

Former city administrator Janette Bower said, “It seems there’s a little confusion about the general fund. The general fund is made up of departments, so it’s not a stand-alone pool of money. The liquor store and water/sewer budgets you don’t have to worry about tonight.”

Andreasen suggested adopting the same budget as 2019 “because we’re within budget, right?”

Kreklau reminded her that salaries, health insurance and other expenses will increase next year.

According to Kreklau, projected 2020 general fund revenues are $664,867, with $1,079,570 in expenditures. Bower said, in that case, the city would have to levy $414,703 to balance the general fund.

Kreklau said general obligation improvement bond payments in 2020 break down as follows: $74,469 for 2013A, $5,575 for 2013B and $29,254 for 2015B.

Liimatta asked council members to ask Kreklau any budget questions by Sept. 20.

“It’s a learning curve for all of us together,” Kreklau said.

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In other business, the council selected Kristi Hastings of Pemberton Law as the city’s labor negotiation attorney. On a unanimous vote, the council agreed to contract Hastings at $200 per hour and 58 cents per mile for travel.

In a letter to the council, Hastings noted, “The process of a new labor contract does take longer than a typical contract negotiation process. Several internal meetings will need to be held to receive feedback from the city to figure out what they want in the contract before we undertake any negotiating. . . Typically, it takes four to five meetings with the union before the contract negotiation is fully resolved, but this depends greatly on the positions taken by both parties.”

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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