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Rushford sets levy, looks for cost savings

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Dec 21st, 2012
Posted in Rushford Government

Last week, the council tabled setting the levy for the 2013 budget to allow for further review of the budget. Following an in-depth discussion of line item areas, the council proceeded with setting the levy at $740,000, a 0 percent increase from 2012.

“I want to thank the budget subcommittee for allowing extra time for this,” noted Councilor Vern Bunke. “I had a number of questions that were answered.

The city intends to move up the budget projections from city departments for 2014 to allow for earlier review and potential cost savings. Should there be additional savings on the 2013 budget, excess funds will go to building up the city’s general fund.

Looking at cost savings, the city has decided not to move forward with the addition of a fifth full-time public works position despite an intense effort put forth by Public Works Director Jeff Copley and a recommendation by staff. The 2013 budget had included funds for the position, but Councilor Vern Bunke questioned the need for the position.

Copley had highlighted the potential cost savings of having the position, citing upcoming levy and infrastructure work on Highway 16 which he believed could be done efficiently in-house rather than contracting the work out. The amount of work that is required to be done is substantial and Copley believes it is best accomplished by transitioning current part-time employee Curt Currier to the full-time position. “We need to get the ball rolling. I don’t have money in the budget for that project,” he stated.

“That highlights what the council has been talking about,” responded Bunke. “We have to get a sense of the entire work flow, so that we have a better sense of how we do plan. How do we stay ahead of the game instead of going to the citizens and saying, ‘This is what we need. Pay for it.’ It’s an opportunity to develop these plans.”

Mayor Chris Hallum disagreed. “It’s the best course forward for the city. We need a talented crew. Give them the tools they need.”

“It is a plan, but it’s not a task resource list,” noted City Administrator Steve Sarvi. “I understand the frustration. We’re doing everything we can to look at the projects and manpower resources are needed. We need staffing in the most efficient manor.”

“I understand the concerns on both sides. I have concerns myself,” noted Councilor Mark Honsey. “It’s a big jump, but the fact of the matter is, there is more stuff now to keep up with. I’m torn on this issue.”

The council voted 3 to 2, with Hallum and Honsey against the motion, to deny the full-time position. Currier, whose part-time position was to be up at the end of the year, will be extended on a part-time basis through the first quarter of 2013 until a plan of action can be worked out by Public Works.

In other news, the city has approved a loan request put forth by the EDA for Rushford NanoElectroChemistry Company. The $149,000 in funding will assist with a construction line, test equipment, and production materials for a bio impedence meter developed by the company. Additional private funding for the line has also been acquired.

The loan is on a draw-basis only and comes with a 4.25 percent interest rate over a five year term. It will receive an eight-month deferment, until September 1, 2013, including both principal and interest.

The next regular city council meeting is Monday, January 14, at 6:30pm, at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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