At the December 18 Preston City Council meeting, during a discussion on the 2019 budget, there was a disagreement about the budget line item for the National Trout Center. Councilman David Collett suggested the NTC budget should be cut by $10,000. The total 2018 budget for the NTC was $26,500, which also includes EDA funding. Mayor Kurt Reicks argued that the NTC was a significant part of tourism, which is a big part of our economy. It brings people into town.
Councilwoman Holly Zuck opined that any entity that is part of tourism takes a long time to develop, “baby steps every year.” Why would you cut them off; you are suggesting a 50% reduction from the General Fund.
Councilman Robert Maust said he agreed with Zuck and suggested there be a 10% reduction in a year. Zuck added we don’t know how many people come to town and fish because of NTC marketing.
Maust questioned why the NTC hasn’t continued to pursue funding from the state, like the Eagle Center has, to build a permanent home for the center.
Reicks insisted if we are going to reduce their funding by 10%, we have to let them know at the beginning of the year so they can plan.
Maust moved that the NTC be put on notice that there will be a 10% decrease (a $1,900 decrease or an appropriation of $17,100) in the 2020 budget. This is a 10% decrease from the portion that the city council appropriates. The motion was approved. Collett voted no.
The 2019 proposed budget of $2,369,091 shows an increase of $103,829. The increase includes an effective $38,419 increase in the street improvement fund. The difference or decrease in bond payments due next year is being captured and reallocated to the street improvement fund. Health insurance expenses will increase 7.1%. Salaries will increase 2.5%. Street lighting expense will be reduced by $15,000 due to the conversion to LED lighting. Local Government Aid will increase by $189. Revenue from police contracts (Fountain and Lanesboro) will increase by $5,552. The budget was approved as presented. Collett voted no.
A resolution to approve the final levy was approved. The 2019 total levy is $942,046 which represents a 5% increase over 2018.
Other business in brief
•The 2019 Workers Compensation payment to the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust in the amount of $38,617 was approved. The city, park board, and ambulance service share in this expense.
•A proposal for the 2019 official newspaper from News Leader/Bluff Country Reader was approved.
•The state requested that the city create an escrow fund to receive donations to the veterans home project. Funds will be deposited in the escrow account when received and dispersed in a single transfer to the state in February. The council approved the creation of an interest bearing account at F & M bank.
•Approval was given to move the January 7 city council meeting to Wednesday, January 9 at 6 p.m.