City looks at balanced budget proposal

Finance Director says rollback will reduce city's portion of tax bill


FORT MADISON – What used to be a two-hour presentation was pared down to about 45 minutes Tuesday as the Fort Madison City Council heard City Manager Laura Leigois’ first budget presentation.
The freshly-hired city manager went quickly through a $44 million projected budget for the next fiscal year starting July 1.
The budget includes an $18.27/$1,000 of assessed valuation property tax levy, an increase of $1 from the current tax year, but City Finance Director Peggy Steffensmeier said city property owners will actually pay less this year when the state’s rollback is factored in.
According to the property tax levy sheet prepared by Steffensmeier, the owner of property with an assessed value of $100,000 will pay $847 compared to the $929 they paid as the city’s portion of their tax bill this year.
Resident tax bills are made up of multiple agencies and the city’s portion is just one part of the total bill.
The city is projected to end the current fiscal year with a general fund, or operating, balance of $853,188. Leigois said city staff’s recommendation is to move that closer to $1 million, but her recommended budget only boosts it by about $20,000 to $874,268.
The city is projected to collect $3.1 million in taxes. The other largest revenue source is $3.5 million in transfers into the general fund from some of the other city funds.
The proposed budget from city staff came in with deficit spending of about $537,000, but Leigois is recommending adjustments that would bring the budget back into balance at a $21,000 surplus.
Individual department budget expenses are as follows (rounded): Police - $2.78 million; Fire - $2.06 million; Planning and Zoning - $302,000; Library - $375,000; Parks - $463,000; Swimming Pool - $86,000; Cemetery $155,000; Depot - $24,000; Policy Administration $998,590; Streets - $1.54 million; Water - $4.03 million; Waste Water - $3.53 million; Solid Waste - $1.13 million; Storm Water - $217,000; Airport - $620,000.
Leigois said coming into the job in January made her first budget process a little complicated.
“This is not an easy task. We set out in December, prior to me arriving, each department filled out their budget and, obviously, we do not have the resource and funding to give every need and want in the departments,” she said.
“If we would have funded everything as asked that would have left the general fund at a $500,000 negative at the end of the fiscal year at about a $288,000 ending balance.”
She said department heads came to the table and helped eliminate that deficit spending and created a balanced budget.
Councilman Rusty Andrews said people need to understand that there were heavy conversations around what could be done within the departments to keep costs at bay, whether it’s cutting a vehicle in one department, or not filling a position in another, the city is working hard to keep costs in line.
“The biggest thing is how do you get the public to understand this? All the public says is that we’re raising taxes and we have franchise fees through the roof. Every department had to give up something this year. Everybody had to take a cut, one less person, no shiny things. Everybody is taking a hit to make it work,” he said. “How do you get that message across?”
Mayor Matt Mohrfeld said it’s a large budget and took some work for the staff to get the budget balanced.
Most of the heavy lifting was done when the mayor assigned two city councilmen to a budget review committee with city staff to bring the proposed budget to the council.
“It’s tough, especially when you talk about a $44 million flow-through budget and you can’t find $10,000 for an expense. It is priorities and I appreciate it,” Mohrfeld said.
One of the expenses Leigois said the city will be reducing is the city’s annual contribution to the Lee County Economic Development Group. That will be reduced from $30,000 to $20,000 in the next budget.
Other highlights of the budget are an estimated $197,000 in hotel/motel tax funds, down from about $246,000 in the current budget. There also was no fund discussion on the Old Fort as city officials moved that enterprise to a volunteer group with guidance from the city, but no funding appropriated.

City Hall, City Council, budget, projection, review, news, Pen City Current, Rusty Andrews, Mayor Matt Mohrfeld,


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