Monticello Council approves budget, hires new city manager, awards bids

The Monticello City Council approved a $1.7 million general fund budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year at a June 8 council meeting. The council approved the budget with a vote of 3-2, with Councilmen Walter Bird, Scott Frost and Scott Shakespeare voting in favor. The motion stated there will be quarterly reviews of the budget by the council.
“I don’t look at this budget and say ‘whew, we passed a final budget, we’re done, we can sit around for another year and let the sand go through the hourglass.’ We are going to have to proactively try to fix some problems,” said Bird.
Interim City Manager Ruth Skouson reported that all of the ideas approved by the council at their previous meeting had been implemented in the budget, and adjustments had been made to several areas where costs were underestimated or revenues were projected too high.
Councilman Craig Leavitt expressed concern over the budget, and suggested the council make additional cuts in order to help revenues cover costs. He stated that either the City needs to cut back more or cut employees.
Bird pointed out that the overall budget is going down every year and added, “We are making efforts to do it.” Bird said that the city can and should continue to make changes throughout the year to try to save money. “State law dictates that we have to have a final budget that matches up on the revenue and spending side, but it doesn’t stop us from next week or next month addressing some of these things that get us better in line to where you think we need to be Craig,” said Bird. “I don’t think anybody here at the table has a 100 percent comfort level with this. We are dealing with a lot of unknowns.”
Mayor Allen agreed that there needs to be more work done. “When you have to balance the budget by selling buildings, that is not a good sign,” said Allen. “I will say that we are getting a lot better at savings, but at the same time the income is going down.”
During the discussion, Leavitt said that he felt comfortable voting for the budget if they would work toward making changes so they aren’t always so close on the revenue and expense side. Leavitt suggested that the community needs to step up and help by shopping at home. “When you leave town, all those taxes go somewhere else. If you want swimming pools or golf courses, you better shop at home,” said Leavitt.
Councilman Brad Randall pointed out that grant money being received for the upcoming road project is not listed in the budget, nor is a golf marketing grant. Mayor Allen pointed out that the budget can be amended at other times during the year as necessary. Randall also questioned a drop of almost 50 percent in business license fees collected in 2010. Skouson pointed out that the 2008-09 revenue from fees collected was high, and the numbers from 2009-10 are closely in line with the 2007-08 revenues.
Randall also questioned an increase in salaries and wages in the streets department. Skouson reported that the public works department is now billing the salaries of employees to the different departments in order to more closely reflect the work they do in each area. Allen pointed out that there is a corresponding drop in salaries in the water, sewer and sanitation departments.
Randall said that there is room for at least an additional $30,000 in revenues in federal and state operating grants and permits and fees received. Mayor Allen suggested waiting to make adjustments in those areas until a quarterly review and then amending the budget as necessary.
The council unanimously approved the hiring of Kelly Pehrson as the new Manager of the City of Monticello. The council offered the position to Pehrson following a review of over 30 applicants for the position, and interviewing 12 people. Pehrson accepted the offer and will begin his duties on July 6. Mayor Allen said there was a good field to choose from, and he was excited to have Pehrson begin working for the City.
The sale of utilities outside the City limits was unanimously approved by the council. The sale will be restricted to properties located within the boundary defined as the annexation area. Properties outside the city limits will pay double rate for utilities.
Randall questioned if the city is able to properly justify the double rate for utilities. Bird suggested a change in the language to show that the rate is fair and equitable and not just randomly set by the city. The resolution was amended to state that rates will be justifiable and reasonably set by the city council.
The certified tax rate for 2010-2011 was received and discussed by the council. This year the council is able to take the proposed tax rate which generates an additional tax income to the city of $6,184.
In the future, the city may have to go through the truth in taxation process or risk losing approximately $6,184 in tax revenue. The new certified tax rate is lower than the previous year, due to an increase in property valuation that will affect new growth. The total revenue for the new tax year is projected to increase by approximately $2,500, even with the tax rate being set lower. The council unanimously approved the proposed tax rate.
The Council discussed the “Welcome to Monticello” sign at the east entrance to the city. A group of residents has asked the Council for permission to present a design for a sign to replace the one destroyed during the winter. They suggest wording saying “Welcome to Monticello, Gateway to Canyonlands Needles District and world famous Hideout Golf Club”. It would also continue to advertise the Welcome Center and its location. They would also like to add “Stay an extra day” to the text.
The sign would be the same size as the previous sign, and may be done in a wrap style that would be more cost effective, and could be changed more frequently for less cost. The group is looking for funding to pay for the sign but needed approval of the council.
The group is led by Nancy Dutcher, with the support of the Monticello Chamber of Commerce, who offered to take responsibility for the project. Skouson told the council that UDOT has stipulated that the sign be used to advertise the City as a whole and no private business. The council felt that the statement “Stay an extra day” did not promote any specific business.
“They can stay with me if they want,” joked Mayor Allen. The council unanimously approved the use of the sign by the group.
The council approved listing the Keith B. Redd fire station for sale with a vote of 4-1, with Randall voting against. Currently, there is no offer for the purchase of the building. When asked about renting the building rather than selling it, Mayor Allen stated that the money generated from a sale would be more useful, as it is planned to be used toward the expansion of the city museum to house and display the Big 4 tractor.
It was suggested during public comment that if the city is interested in generating revenue by the sale of property that can be returned to the tax roles, they should consider looking at more valuable properties like those located on Main Street that would generate taxable revenue rather than a building that they may need in the future.
A $1.63 million bid was awarded to LeGrand Johnson for the upcoming road/utility project. Originally the city had hoped the bid would come in low enough to include more streets in the project. Even without the ability to add additional streets, they were pleased that the bid awarded fell within the budget. Five bids were received for the project. The order of work has not been set, with the exception that the section of 200 North and the section in front of the Elementary School needs to be completed before school begins in mid-August. The city plans to work with LeGrand in order to keep the public informed and involved as to the where and when work will be done. The council unanimously approved the awarding of the bid.
The June 22 meeting of the City Council was changed to June 29 due to a conflict with the primary election on June 22. Local voting takes place in the council chambers.

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