At the regular council meeting Monday night, Marshalltown City Administrator Jessica Kinser and Treasurer Diana Steiner said the city is currently in a general funding shortfall of about $312,000 for fiscal 2024. Kinser offered several options to increase income or reduce expenses.
“I need to sharpen my pencils a little more this year,” Steiner said.
Steiner called on the state legislature to stop “putting pressure” on the city and said continued change was an “ongoing problem” as budgeting season is in full swing. Kinser provided a little background and answered what she said was a frequently asked question.
“It’s not like we’re actually saving $9,000. That means we’re not going to get $9,000 from another tax to pay that $9,000,” she said. “So there are quite a few things that are related in that way.”
Kinser said the city is just under $9 million in general revenue and is trying to support costs of about $9.2 million. She then presented her 10 proposals that could result in the city’s $132,538 surplus.
Alderman Gary Thompson asked Kinser if the $312,000 figure was actually an underestimate, as additional funding could be needed to maintain the building, but she and Public Works Director Heather Thomas said the numbers were raised for preventative maintenance.
From there, the council began sifting through and debating proposals. Thompson said he wouldn’t mind stopping mosquito spraying to save $4,000 a year, but his fellow lawmaker Mike Radehoff believes it’s worth the expense. said.
City Councilman Dex Walker opined that the proposed changes were “not a very scary list” in terms of the total budget, but shared concerns about the proposed employee furloughs.
“It’s a big deal and nothing to be taken lightly compared to spraying bugs,” said Walker.
Kinser said he doesn’t think any department in the city is currently overstaffed.If the goal is to avoid layoffs or eliminate positions, the easiest way is to is “getting away from the masses for a bit.”
“When you can’t do it alone, you have to do it collectively. Philosophically, I think it makes sense given where we come from as a team of putting together a budget.” She said, “I don’t think there will be any positive feedback. I don’t think anyone really wants to do it. I can say I have no problem with it. I’ve done it before with another organization.” I’ve done it before.”
Fellow councilor Gabe Isom, speaking from experience with the furloughs, strongly opposed the idea at first but came to understand it and saw it as a viable option for the city. Then Isom moved on to another list item, a proposal to charge the Marshall County Communications Commission higher rents for using police and fire buildings.
MCCC currently pays $1 a year in rent, but the proposal would increase that to $6,392 a year, or about $533 a month. Isom thought the number should be even higher.
“My personal opinion is that the number is light, very light. I think the number should increase significantly,” he said. “I think that’s probably the area that deserves the most focus, attention and conversation of all of them.”
Thompson said he opposes furloughs, but said it’s fine for department heads to take a few days off each month.
“I have a problem with guys on the street being told when they have to leave,” he said. It’s more cost effective and saves us even more money.”
Thompson asked Kinser follow-up questions regarding the lease with MCCC. Alderman Jeff Schneider said any proposal could be discussed before the floor was opened to public comment.
John Hall, President and CEO of the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce, was the first to speak, highlighting positive progress on the $120,000 increase in hotel/motel tax revenue.
“I’d like to think we’re playing a part in driving at least some of that, and hopefully about $50,000 of that goes to the existing year’s budget and the deficits we’ve got.” Hall said. “Keep in mind that the growth we are working on will help us close the deficit.”
Mark Eaton then went on to say that valuations within Marshalltown had increased by about $23 million, but with a total of $30 million tied up in Tax Increase Financing (TIF), the city itself was “handicapped.” He said he felt he was.
“We can’t get tax revenue from that TIF. said Eaton. “Otherwise we wouldn’t have been in the red. We actually have a surplus (funds).”
He went on to say that the city uses a “shell game” to move money from the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) fund to pay for the costs and in turn borrows to handle infrastructure projects such as roads and sewers. I commented that there is
“It’s a fun game to watch and track, but we handicapped ourselves with TIF,” he said.
Jim Shaw then asked whether the furlough was compulsory or voluntary, and said police officers should be excluded from potential furloughs.
“These people put their lives on the line every day. I don’t think they get paid enough,” Shaw said.
Doris Kinnick then commented on the Summerblast item in the budget, urging the council not to raise costs because it is aimed at children from low-income families.Thompson, in response to Eaton’s comments asked whether the TIF contract could be rescinded, Schneider said that, in his view, some valuations would not rise without the existence of the TIF.
“This is not a zero-sum game,” said Schneider.
Other proposals not specifically discussed during the meeting included abolition of BPW and Lawrence Parkes, reduction of cost-of-living adjustments for non-negotiated employees, remittances from Congress-designated LOST funds, and the creation of budgeted police department vacancies. Awareness and Acquisition, Veterans Memorial Coliseum increase included. Exchange/redistribute earnings using concession prices and ARPA dollars.
The council plans to discuss this issue further at a special meeting set for Monday, January 30.
Contact Robert Mahary
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