Andrew Forliti of Smith Schafer presented the audit recap for 2022 to the city of Houston at their regular meeting March 13. The certified levy for the city increased 2% (an additional $11,000 increase. LGA revenues were only up $676 for the year with an expected $4,000 increase anticipated in 2023.
Unassigned fund balance ($377,802) as a percent of expenditures for 2022 was at 51.6%, still a healthy percentage according to Forliti.
The nature center showed a positive balance for the first time in 10 years. All special revenue funds had a positive fund balance, and all city bonds and installment notes are being paid on a timely manner. Revenues from water and sewer rates are now paying operating costs, debt service, and their share of administrative costs.
Summer rec typically hires eight to 10 high schoolers; last summer the program was short staffed. Summer Rec director Emily Krage hopes to begin interviews soon in order to have hiring recommendations for the council ready in May. Krage has an opportunity to host a noon hour job fair at the high school to solicit new staff.
The city’s competitive search did not result in applications for the summer maintenance position. City Administrator Michelle Quinn is checking with the state on the possibility of hiring 18 and 17-year-olds for city lawn mowing duties. If that is possible, those positions could be added to Krage’s job fair offerings. Another possibility is that the ballfield mowing could be contracted out and the rest added to current PWD employees’ duties. The summer maintenance position will remain open until filled.
OHV and other public concerns
Deb Chiglo presented her disappointment in the process of the OHV exit resolution. She was concerned that the council had turned the OHV over to an appointed committee rather than handling it themselves. She also felt the special meeting called by the mayor just one day after a regular council and scheduled for a Friday evening was done too quickly with little notice. Marlene Schultz agreed with Chiglo and questioned the “need” for urgency; she noted that a Friday night was a bad night for a meeting.
Cody Mathers replied that both he and Mayor Scott Wallace are part of the exit committee. Having a committee meet with legislative representatives is more efficient than having the full council. When asked if the meetings are public, Mathers replied that full minutes of the meetings are kept on file at city hall.
Damien Lampert asked how the city “was going to pay back the $500,000 to the DNR.” He claimed his taxes had risen by 67% in the past year. Krage explained that the city levy has never been raised by more than 2 or 3%.
Apparently, there is a public misunderstanding of exactly what the exit resolution meant. The city merely gave the exit committee the authority to speak on the city’s behalf with legislators and to negotiate a more palatable exit from the OHV trail plan.
The city has not approved any exit deal at this time; any plan negotiated will come before the council for approval before anything is done. The language of the contract does not say a payback is required, but rather that the state “may” ask for a repayment.
Mathers emphasized that it has never been an option to levy the tax payers. Mayor Wallace affirmed that there has never been a proposal to add it to property taxes.
Lampert asked about the reimbursement from FEMA for storm tree cleanup. According to Lampert, citizens were expected to fully pay for the cleanup while the city received money from FEMA. Actually, FEMA covered 75% of the cost with the city splitting the remaining 25% with the landowners. Quinn will be checking on Lampert’s property and payment.
In other business, the council:
• Approved pay application #22 for $33,606.57 for the water treatment plant; only a pump start up, finishing painting and changing the rails is left to complete;
• Learned Matt Mohs will attend the April meeting to present engineering for sewer lining; $105,000 will be used from ARPA for the project;
• Approved a quote of $6,985.30 from Guardian Fleet Safety for the new squad car outfitting;
• Opened bids from three companies for refuse and recycling pickup; a decision will be made at the April council meeting;
• Accepted a $500 donation from the Owl Center;
• Approved gambling permits fro DLC Inc. and the Caledonia Wrestling Club.
The next meeting of the Houston City Council will be held April 10, at 6 p.m. in the city hall council chambers. The public is welcome to attend; a public comment period is held at the beginning of the meeting.
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