BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Lee County economic development officials will know Tuesday night what direction the city is going with regard to annual contributions to their efforts.
At Tuesday’s regular city council meeting, councilmen will be considering a request from the Lee County Economic Development Group to return to the $50,000 annual contribution it was making prior to the 2017-18 fiscal year.
City Manager David Varley wrote in a memo to the council last week, city’s revenues are at one of the lowest levels in recent history and for the city to continue to contribute to operating revenue at LCEDG would have an impact on already strained department budgets. However, Varley wrote the LCEDG is doing valuable work and the city should contribute an amount, the council believes “is the best for the city”.
The city used to receive $300,000 in riverboat revenues, but that revenue stream ended prior to the 2017-18 fiscal year, so the city cut a $50,000 payment to LCEDG down to $25,000 that year.
“The City is well aware of benefits that can be gained from economic development efforts. However, we also need to balance that with the responsibility we have to
deliver services to our citizens (Police, Fire, PW, Library, etc.) and be prudent with their tax dollars,” Varley wrote in the memo.
According to city budget figures, the city was down $834,000 in revenue at the end of June. Varley indicated contributing at the level the city did when it had casino revenues is not in the city’s best interests.
“Nobody disputes that LCEDG is involved with some productive activities,” Varley wrote. “However, it would be fairer and more reasonable if the city contributed an amount that is more in line with our ability to pay. Contributing the same amount as when our revenue was $800,000 higher than it is now does not seem fiscally prudent or responsible for the city.”
Also on the agenda for Tuesday, is a revisit to the city’s personnel policy.
At it’s meeting two weeks ago, the city voted down, via a tie vote with Councilman Kevin Rink being absent, an update to the policy that would have reflected changes in benefit structures for employees who fell victim to Chapter 20 changes last year and can no longer bargain for those benefits.
City officials were looking to make benefit packages for employees of the public works, water and library departments more in line with those of the police and fire unions, who can still bargain for benefits as well as wages.
Several councilman asked to see a copy of the changes prior to voting on the proposed changes, which it was revealed had been implemented at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, despite the council not approving the policy changes.
At the meeting on the 7th, it was decided to keep paying in the employees according to the changes in good faith, while the city council worked through the proposed changes.
The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.