The Rushford City Council recently received a financial update and it appears the city is on target for financial goals. Consultant Mike Bubany, of David Drown Associates, indicated eight notable points in a summary to the council as the city sought to plan for the timing and size of tentative projects.
The city continues to comply with a self-imposed $6,000 per capita debt ceiling. The amount has been raised since 2011 after a number of capital improvement projects were undertaken. Per Bubany’s statistical data for the city, the debt limit could spike in 2019 and 2022, with the onset of potential projects, but is largely on a downward trend through 2034. If the city stays within plans, it could be in a moderate to low debt level in 10-12 years.
This is all relative to projects that may need to be undertaken, however, as some projects are state directed. Bubany predicts that a cash contribution from the city’s general fund may be needed in the coming years to stay below the debt per capita limit and offset projects such as Minnesota Department of Transportation’s planned Highway 30 project, expected in 2023. The state is currently anticipating the city’s share of the project at $1,345,000. The city is also anticipating replacing undersized and insufficient water and sewer services on the Steven’s Avenue portion of Highway 30 during the project.
For now, no capital improvement projects are planned for 2018, other than those already within the budget. A 2019 street improvement project is currently planned and could bring a price tag of $2 million. Streets for that project have not yet been determined. Terms for bonded projects will be planned at a 10-year duration, but exceptions may occur in the instance of utility related debt.
Additional suggestions from Bubany included budgeting a tax rate to maintain levels if the tax rate is expected to go down due to debt retiring. He suggests this will allow reserves to increase, avoiding sizable tax increases in the future when new debt is issued. “The informal goal is to keep the tax rate somewhere between 85-90%,” added Bubany in a letter to the city.
This amount will keep tax and utility impact on a typical residential property at 3% or less annually. The tax rate goal is lower than several other Fillmore County municipalities. Rate projections through 2031 appear to be steady or decreasing overall. Operating expenses for the city have remained flat.
The city is continuing to deposit sufficient funding into the Capital Project Fund. An estimated $270,000 is deposited annually. Bubany noted that the city is expecting to withdraw a similar amount from that fund each year for budgeted projects. As noted by City Clerk Kathy Zacher, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s bond rating companies review cash balances as an indicator for bond interest rates.
While sewer and water rates are currently supporting system costs, Bubany suggested the city consider a minimal increase in sewer rates to “stay ahead of the game.” Sewer rates for the city haven’t been raised in some time. After discussion, the council ultimately opted to remove a substantial wastewater plant project from current long range plans.
The city is gearing up for the annual performance review of City Administrator Tony Chladek next month. In preparation, the council reviewed the process and job description of the position. Each of the council members will have their evaluations to Mayor Chris Hallum no later than December 22. Evaluation results will be discussed at the council meeting the following week.
Councilor Vern Bunke questioned whether or not Chladek had thoroughly reviewed city employees over the years through a similar format. “I have a different approach to evaluations,” responded Chladek, who indicated his philosophy is to review city employees in conjunction with department heads on a day to day basis. “That’s kind of how I work; good, bad, or otherwise,” added Chladek.
Bunke further questioned whether a documented history of communication was kept indicating progress or any refractions that need to be kept track of. Chladek indicated memos and data were kept.
The city continues to seek community volunteers to serve on its various boards and commissions. There is currently one opening each on the Airport Board, Electric Commission, and Trees, Trails, and Parks Board. Additionally, there are three openings that urgently need filling on the Planning Commission. Interested persons are encouraged to contact city hall for an application.
Lastly, the council signed an official commendation certificate for resident Bertram Boyum, who was recently celebrated as the oldest living auctioneer in the state of Minnesota with a career spanning more than 50 years. “Bertram Boyum has admirably served the citizens of Rushford and surrounding area in the capacity of a businessman and local auctioneer. Boyum has shown through his contribution of time, talents, and expertise his passion for his craft and dedication to his community.”
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, December 11, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.