At the September 18 meeting of the Preston City Council, after considerable discussion concerning the 2018 budget, a resolution adopting the 2018 preliminary levy was adopted unanimously. The 2018 preliminary levy was set at $897,182, an increase of $65,688, or 7.9% over 2017. One percent of levy increase equals about $8,300.
There already were two changes to the earlier budget draft. First, health insurance costs will increase 15%, which is 5% higher than had been budgeted. Secondly, with the police service contract with the city of Fountain there will be $16,000 in increased revenues.
City Administrator Joe Hoffman explained that the planned 2019 post office area street project is estimated to cost $4 million. The debt service on that projects is estimated to be $147,000. In order to level out the levy increases needed to service that debt, Hoffman suggested spreading the increase over 2018, 2019, and 2020 (an additional 5.5% increase each year). This will be taxing for a project that is one to two years out.
In order to limit that increase this year, the council decided to reduce the contingency fund which is used for unexpected expenses from $40,000 to $10,000. This money will be saved in a street improvement fund to help pay for the 2019 post office area street project or for a community center. For 2018, instead of 5.5% being added to a proposed levy increase of 5.9%, about 2% was added, or a 7.9% increase.
There is interest in a community center which is to house the National Trout Center, Tourism, and Preston Historical Society. A new community center is estimated to cost $1.5 million. Money now directed to the NTC, Tourism, and Historical Society totaling $37,000 would be committed to the debt service of the center. There would also be an additional estimated $22,000 per year of debt service which would need to be levied.
Mayor Kurt Reicks maintained there are “wants and needs.” The street project is a need, the community center is a want. Councilwoman Holly Zuck felt the timing is not right for the community center. She suggested they look for other funding besides taxes. Councilman Robert Maust insisted that constituents want a community center. Zuck worried that high taxes could inhibit the city’s growth. Councilman Charles Sparks suggested that the availability of a community center for events could attract young people. Maust said a center could bring a lot of activities to town, we need a place to hold them.
Reicks repeated that we need the street project, but agreed that constituents talk about wanting a community center. Zuck asked what the community center will be used for besides the three entities to be housed there. Members listed the availability of meeting rooms and space for events including private parties, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, flea markets, rummage sales, auctions, and the firemen’s ball. Maust said it will have an approved kitchen and space for activities. Individuals who reserve the facility for private use will pay a fee. He insisted, “It will get used a lot once it is there.” Zuck was concerned it could be in conflict with the new privately owned wedding venue. Members responded that it may be used for weddings, but there would not be an effort to attract use for weddings.
Reicks explained that the 7.9% preliminary levy increase approved this day is the maximum. We can go down, but not up when we certify the final levy in December.
Other business in brief
• Tony Severson, S & S Sanitation, asked the council if they want to renew the contract with him. Reicks said the city doesn’t hear many complaints. Hoffman explained the city is not required to competitively bid a sanitation contract. Severson said he doesn’t know yet what the new rates will be from the county. Otherwise, the contract will be similar to the first contract which the city agreed to in 1991. He asked if they will continue with the bag system. Members signaled that they were good with the bag system. The contract will be put back on the agenda when they get the tipping rate information. Severson noted the rates haven’t been raised in two years. The last contract was for four years.
• The South Water Booster Station serves 20 to 22 homes on or south of Judy Lane. An upgrade undertaken by Preston Public Utilities cost $250,000. The utility has sufficient cash to pay for the upgrade. However, PPU wants to maintain the ability to issue debt for the project if it is determined that it would be more cost effective. The council approved a reimbursement resolution to keep that as an option. The PPU also had passed a reimbursement resolution.
• A police contract with the city of Fountain was approved. The council approved the terms of the proposed contract on August 7. Fountain also has approved the contract.
• Jim Bakken, Public Works, received permission to dispose of items that have been stored behind the city shop that are no longer needed and/or serviceable.
• WSB, engineer for the river project, has requested an extension period for the tree storage site on Fillmore Street until early spring. The council approved a motion requiring the trees stored at the site to be removed by December 31, 2017.