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Rushford Village looks at year end, finances

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Dec 20th, 2013
Posted in Rushford Village Government

As the city prepares to conclude another fiscal year, a goal and priority listing for 2013 was revisited to discuss either status or completion. The goals were divided into four categories and subdivided into roughly 10 subcategories and included big items such as road bridge issues, sewer and water, and comprehensive planning. Other areas included office, technology, and efficiencies, zoning, co-op collaboration, and economic development. Of the goals, 60 percent have seen completion and the remaining are in progress. Some are continued goals which are not measured in absolute completion, as they are constantly being upgraded or improved.

“All in all, I certainly see progress,” stated Mayor Dale Schwanke. “The comprehensive plan was a huge goal.” The mayor also had his own five-item list of goals for the year, including staying under budget, structuring of a comprehensive plan, improving technology, developing a strategic plan for urban and rural streets, and continuing a review of city services. “Number five will always be there in my mind,” he said. “We need to find places to add value without adding cost.” Schwanke was already thinking to next year’s goals as he indicated a need for additional housing. “We need to get serious about looking at the process.”

Also in keeping with end-of-year housekeeping, the council reviewed several CDs, which matured December 19. It appears that some CDs which were marked for various projects, had not been used. At least eight items (listed as “A-H”) need review in regards to finances before the year’s end.

“I think the point here is we haven’t followed the bouncing ball well,” said Mayor Schwanke. “We need to transact every year. The big issue is we’ve got all these accounts. We need to look at budget of what we have on hand in all these little buckets.”

“The advantage is it wouldn’t show like we have a surplus of money,” said Councilor Gordy Johnson in regards to setting funds aside in CDs. “To earmark it for an area is not like having a big balance.” Johnson was quick to note, however, that funds set aside should be designated for projects and looked at alongside the general fund for budget planning. “It makes reasonable sense, provided there is a document that shows a clear number. It’ll help us understand the financial situation.”

While the city is in good financial condition, the sewer fund was identified as underfunded. Looking to find a way to end the year with a zero balance in the fund, Schwanke suggested equalizing the fund using both general fund and a CD earmarked for the sewer. “There’s no harm in putting money in sewer fund, provided it’s for something,” added Johnson, “Worst case comes, it never gets used.” $163,000 will be directed from the general fund to the sewer fund and $20,000 will be directed from the CD to the fund.

There may be some issue with a 20 year contract with the City of Rushford in regards to the sewer fund. According to financial manager Judy Graham, the Village rate has been raised to $24.96 per month, the equivalent of $10 per household. “We paid a back fee for three years, plus we’re paying for the upgrade,” noted Graham.

“What is extra billing for? We should be paying based on contract billing fee,” noted Schwanke. “We need to sit down with them and discuss this so we’re all on the same page. We need to see what the expenses are and how they get those numbers. One of our concerns is did those billing it out understand it the same way.”

“We pay a percentage of operating and maintenance costs,” responded Johnson. “They really took us to the cleaners on dollars associated with labor personnel, I think it’s $100,000 or more just in wages for Copley and the others.”

“We have to be careful,” stressed Schwanke. “We already know another stage of upgrade is coming within the next five years.”

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, January 7, at 7 p.m., at the Village Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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