Monticello City Council approves tentative budget, will not raise taxes
by Anna Thayn
Jun 02, 2010 | 1539 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Monticello City Council approved a tentative budget for fiscal year 2010-11 on May 25. The budget was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Craig Leavitt voting against the motion.

Going into the meeting, the council needed to make up a $226,680 shortfall in the proposed budget.

Councilman Scott Shakespeare made a motion to approve, and implement several items discussed during the meeting and at previous work meetings.

The savings include a $10,000 reduction in the golf fertilizer budget, $90,000 from the sale of a public works building, transfer $72,062 from the sanitation fund, adjust wages and benefits by $54,618. The motion said that the council intends to leave property taxes at the certified rate set by the State of Utah. The savings will provide the necessary budget adjustment.

Many comments were received during the public hearing and council discussion on the issue. The council is concerned about balancing the budget on the hope of selling the old public works building and what to do if the building doesn't sell.

Mayor Allen suggested that “short of mass firings” they would probably have to dip into the transportation fund.

Carol Van Steeter asked about the possibility of raising property taxes. She said that many residents donate money and time to help improve the community. “Raising property taxes is kind of a kick in the teeth to people who are willing to go out there and try harder,” said Van Steeter. She said that not raising taxes helps bring the community together, and encourages people to help out more.

Questions were raised regarding the transfer of funds from the sanitation fund. Mayor Allen said the water department owes the general fund, but the water department needs to accumulate funds and get back to zero before they can pay back the general fund. The public suggested that each department needs to find a way to become self sufficient.

Tom Wiggington said, “If we don’t have money to pay for something we have to cut somewhere, we just can’t keep borrowing forever.”

Jeremy Hoggard said that up to 82 percent of the city budget is spent on wages and benefits. Hoggard said a neighboring community with twice the population, and additional gas and electric service has three people in their office, while Monticello has four.

Hoggard asked if the numbers seem high, to which Mayor Allen said it does not, as government is different that business.

Monte Wells said that government needs to begin looking at things as a business. “Government gets paid by the people to do whatever they want and that’s the problem with government. Government needs to look at it as a business because there is not an endless hole to keep grabbing money from us, because eventually we’ll stop giving and then what?” questioned Wells.

Wells said the city should look at ways to run the city like a business. Mayor Allen pointed out the number of business owners on the council, and said, “We do understand that. . . It’s different! It’s different.”

Juanita Taylor asked why the golf course is not paying for water and suggested that if the residents pay more for water, the golf course rates should increase.

Mayor Allen said that course fees have increased in the past two years and the golf course is working toward breaking even.

Wells questioned the cost of the police department. He said the department is large for the size of the community with four officers serving a town of 2,000. He suggested that some smaller towns have one marshal and the Sheriff’s office picks up the slack.

Denise Frost asked if a cut in fertilizer at the golf course will hurt the course. “I’m proud of our golf course. I’m proud of the improvements we have made in our city. I realize that you always have to work out problems, but I really appreciate all the improvements that have been made in the city,” said Frost.

Councilman Craig Leavitt said that will fertilize using settlement money from the building that collapsed during the winter.

Leavitt said a lot of things in the city budget are hard to understand. He said that the council is borrowing money now to spend on the future, and that if the ecomony doesn’t change, the city will be in a hole with no options except raising taxes or cutting employees.

“You can get rid of things, but as you get rid of things you actually hurt the community more, so you have to balance this whole things somehow,” said Leavitt.

Julia Brooks suggested that the City prioritize what needs to be done first and find ways to stay within the budget.

Leavitt suggested that not opening the pool this season could save money, but then nobody could swim.

“Well then nobody can swim,” said Brooks.

Leavitt stated that these are the kinds of things the council has to look at when it comes to possible savings versus cost to the community. The estimated savings from not opening the pool is $34,000 but it is not as simple to quantify the savings of not opening the pool as it seems.

The council changed the personnel policy outlining the hourly requirements for classification of employment status. The policy states that full time employees work a minimum of 30 hours per week. Employees who work 25 hours or less per week and are hired for an indefinite period of time are classified as regular part-time employees, and do not qualify for benefits. Seasonal employees who work less than six months a year do not qualify for benefits. Some employees have cut back on hours but are still listed as full-time.

With the change, the city will save money not only in salaries, but in retirement contributions and FICA as well.

The council discussed a change to the employee health care plan. A plan from United Health Care was unanimously approved by the council. The plan has a small increased cost from the current policy, but is significantly less than the anticipated 27.2 percent increase in PEHP costs in the new year.

A $3,456,518 bid from Granite Construction was approved for the next phase of the airport construction project. Two bids were received, in contrast to 16 for the first phase in 2009.

The council was pleased that the approved bid came in $1.1 million less than the engineer’s estimate. The project is contingent on Federal and State funding.

It is expected that the funding will be received within a month of awarding the bid, as it was in 2009. The project is funded 95 percent by the Federal Aviation Administration, 2.5 percent by the State of Utah and 2.5 percent by the City of Monticello.

Of the City’s portion, the transportation district has funded 75 percent of the cost. The remaining City cost is budgeted at $20,000. Councilman Leavitt said that considering the total cost and size of the project, the portion of cost to the City is relatively small.

The council changed the fees charged at the swimming pool, which is scheduled to open on July 1. The new rates for a day pass will be free for ages 1-4 free, $2.50 for grades K-6, $3 for grades 7-12, and $4 for adults. Passes for the shortened season this year are $40 for a K-6 pass, $50 for grades 7-12, and $60 for an adult pass.

It is estimated that based on this fee schedule, revenue should go up considerably with increased attendance and fees.

Recreation Director Eddie Allred pointed out that the community had expressed willingness to pay additional fees in previous surveys. Allred researched the rates at many other community pools.

Councilman Walter Bird questioned why there was not a family rate in the plan. The recreation board suggested individual passes only because of the shortened three month season (rather than five months). They will revisit the family pass next season. The pool rental rate for private events was not set at this time.

Employer Solutions Group presented a proposal to offer payroll services. Councilman Scott Frost, who has used the company at his personal business, said the city could benefit from a company who deals full time with payroll and human resources issues.

The council questioned if they could save $12,000 in employee costs by using the service. Bird said his it seems like a luxury the city cannot afford. “We are almost adding an employee if you look at it,” said Bird.

Mayor Allen had concerns that the company does not currently work with any government entities. The council suggested that Holyoak estimate the amount of time this would save, so if the City eliminate a position, they can move forward with this type of service to determine if it would be cost effective.

Councilman Brad Randall questioned the payment made to former City Manager Myron Lee for returning to Monticello to help prepare the new fiscal budget.

Randall questioned how the rate was set and who made the decision, as in his recollection the amount was not set by the council.

Lee was paid his hourly rate and mileage to travel to Monticello. Allen reported that no per diem was given and no other costs were incurred.

Bird did not remember a rate being discussed, but stated that the council was aware and he personally expected Lee to be compensated for his time.

Randall told the council that he is concerned due to the current budget problems. Allen asked what would be expected to be different and felt that the offer by Lee to come back for his regular rate with no per diem or hotel costs was a generous offer.

Randall said that he did not feel it was a good deal, but felt the council should have discussed the rate of pay. Allen said that the council had responsibility to ask questions if they were unsure of the compensation at the time they discussed Lee returning to help with the budget preparation.
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