Mayor explains city budget, cash reserves

Mayor Mike Wyatt presided over the Grant City Council meeting on Sept. 12 after an extended absence. Wyatt was last present at the May 9 meeting, and has been absent at the last seven meetings due to health concerns. 

During the public hearing on the 2017-18 budget, Councilman Matt Greenwood said he would’ve liked to have seen the budget balance. 

Wyatt said there were a couple things he wanted to address when looking at the $709,000 negative number in the budget. 

He said the chances of the CRA (Community Redevelopment Authority) money being spent are “practically nil,” but it has to be in the budget if by chance it’s needed. $800,000 was budgeted in CRA capital outlay. 

The budget also includes $250,000 for an automated weather observing system (AWOS) at the airport.

“I assure you, the only way we’re going to afford a $250,000 AWOS is if we get a 90-10 payment from the Federal Aviation,” said Wyatt. 

He said the reason the city has such a nice airport is because they’ve received 90 percent funding for the hangars. 

Wyatt said they’ve spent almost 10 years saving money to spend cash for a new garbage truck. Same for the lift station repairs. 

“People need to look at cash balances. All your focus is on is the budgets. You have to remember, we do have cash. We have cash reserves. When you look at this budget, you have to look at all scopes. You can’t just pick pieces and then make announcements that we’re $700,000 short. That’s not fair,” said the mayor. 

He said he didn’t expect everyone to be experienced enough to know these things, but to ask the council members, City Superintendent Dana Harris or City Clerk Jessie Faber, so it could be explained properly.

Lisa Schmitt of Grant asked what the cash balance was. Wyatt said as of Aug. 31 it was $3,940,468. 

Wyatt did say the city will show a shortfall in the water department when they are audited. This is due to funds not yet being reimbursed by the USDA for the water project loan.

Public comments on budget 

Schmitt questioned the wages which were approved at a 2.5 percent increase. She said her calculations were still showing a 6 percent increase and asked if she was missing something. 

Wyatt explained that the wages are padded as they don’t always have control over weather events and overtime. 

He said the wage ordinance being passed later that evening assures there will only be a 2.5 percent increase. 

Schmitt said there is a remote possibility the pool project could be started in the 2017-18 budget year. In order for this to happen, the amount for the project would need to be budgeted in capital outlay for them to qualify for necessary grants. It’s currently budgeted in grants. 

Wyatt said he felt having the $3.8 budgeted where it is in grants let’s everyone know they are committed. 

Schmitt said she has submitted requests for information needed for pool grants through the proper channels. She said she was denied and therefore the pool committee can not apply for certain grants. 

She asked if the information needed could be compiled to write the necessary grants. 

Wyatt said they will provide her with the best information they can. 

Library Director Robin Quinn said the council unanimously voted to pull the $1,225 library budget deficit out of cash reserves, so she questioned why it was still listed as a deficit on the final budget. 

Quinn said she has been here for 10 years, and they always strive to stay under budget. She said for this fiscal year, she thinks they will be a couple thousand under budget. 

Her concern was not being able to utilize the $1,225 if it’s needed, and also being responsible for a deficit in the city budget. 

She requested the $1,225 be listed as a line item. 

Library director salary

The library board approved a 3 percent wage increase for Quinn as the library director, and a 2.5 percent increase for the assistant librarians in addition to four additional hours per week. 

In the city’s wage ordinance, the library director’s wage increased from $16.75 to $17.17, which is only a 2.5 percent increase. 

Quinn said state statute says the library board has the power to set compensation for its employees. 

Wyatt read part of Nebraska State Statute 51-211, “The governing body of the county, city, or village in which the library is located shall approve any personnel administrative or compensation policy or procedure before implementation of such policy or procedure by the library board.”

Wyatt said his interpretation of that policy says Quinn and her assistants are city employees and therefore subjected to the same pay increase as the rest of the city employees. 

Quinn responded the statute doesn’t say the council gets to set the compensation policy, but that they have to approve it. 

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