Paul Verbrugge

Verbrugge

BRITT | The Britt City Council will have some tough decisions to make on its 2018-19 budget.

That was the consensus Tuesday, Jan. 23, when the council met with Cindy Kendall, interim city administrator, in special session to discuss its upcoming budgeting process and review outside agencies’ budget requests.

“I think everyone that’s been at this table very long knew this discussion was coming. It was just a matter of time,” Councilman Curt Gast said. “Year after year it continues to get bigger and bigger and more requests and more requests, and it was going to get to the point where somebody was going to say no.”

The meeting was held one week after 12 organizations made funding requests to the city totaling $75,478 during the council’s regular meeting.

The requests (in alphabetical order) were as follows:

• American Legion and VFW: $5,000 for 2017-18 fiscal year to cover behind-the-scenes expenses, like waste management, to bring the Remembering Our Fallen to Britt in late April.

• Britt Draft Horse Show: $3,500

• Britt Golf Course, formerly the Britt Country Club: $15,000

• Britt Industrial Development Corp., commonly known as BIDCO: $10,000

• Britt Parks and Recreation: $8,130

• Evergreen Cemetery: $7,600

• Hancock County Agricultural Museum: $1,000

• Hancock County District County Fair: $1,500

• Hancock County Historical Society: $3,000

• Hobo Art Gallery: $4,052

• National Hobo Museum: $1,696

• The Hobo Day Association, a nonprofit that organizes the National Hobo Convention and Hobo Days in Britt: $15,000

The requests, including a couple new ones, are at least $8,000 more than 2017-18, and nearly $37,000 more than 2016-17 — a trend the city council agreed must be curbed.

“Somewhere it’s got to stop,” said Councilman Paul Verbrugge. “We can’t continue asking everybody to pay for that in taxes.”

Gast said the growing number of groups requesting funding from the city is reducing the money it has to pay for maintenance, operations and other items it’s responsible for doing.

The conversation came after Kendall provided the city council an overview on its 2017-18 budget. By the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2018, Britt is projected to have $9,567, in its general fund balance to use for unbudgeted items that may arise.

One of the unbudgeted items for the 2017-18 fiscal year is Remembering Our Fallen, a national memorial unveiled in 2017 that honors individuals who were killed while serving in the U.S. military in the War on Terror since 9/11, scheduled to be in Britt from April 26 to 30.

Jerry Christensen, who is active in the Britt Veterans of Foreign Affairs and American Legion, requested $5,000 from the city to cover some of the memorial expenses, like waste management.

The city council agreed what Christensen is doing is “absolutely fabulous,” but it’s uncertain it can provide $5,000 this fiscal year with its projected general fund balance less than $10,000.

“If it was next year, it’d be a lot easier to say, ‘Yes, we’ll give you some money toward that,’” Mayor Ryan Arndorfer said.

The city council didn’t act on Christensen’s funding request for the memorial during the special session, and Kendall said it’s an item that remains up for discussion.

As part of the meeting, the council categorized each request in tier one, two or three based on the community’s benefit from the organization or event.

Events like the Britt Draft Horse Show, Hobo Days and Hancock County District Fair were pegged as top tier events because the number of people each draws to the city of Britt.

Others would be considered tier two or three.

“Do I want to see the city fund all these things forever? No. Do I want them to get lost? Absolutely not, so that’s the hard part,” said Arndorfer, who is also a member of the Hobo Day Association.

Kendall said she’d work with City Attorney Earl Hill to write a policy related to outside agencies’ funding requests for council’s review. The policy would outline the city’s rationale for funding outside agencies’ requests.

Councilman Chad Luecht suggested the city also include in its policy how funding will be allocated to outside agencies. For example, tier-one agencies would receive their full request, while tier-two agencies would receive partial funding, and tier-three agencies would receive a portion of whatever’s left in the budget, if anything.

“If people do ask questions about this stuff, they need to know that we’re strapped, that we are seriously looking at everybody’s request,” Councilman Bryan Aitchison said, “and not just this year, it’s going to be years to come.”

The city council will meet in special session at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, to continue its discussion about the budget. If additional discussion is needed, it’ll be on the council’s Feb. 6 agenda.

A public hearing for the 2018-19 budget will be held Tuesday, Feb. 13.

In other city council news:

- January is former Britt City Administrator/Clerk Shell Anderson’s last month doing payroll for the city. Anderson agreed to do payroll and accounts payable for the city at $20 an hour in October until the city found her replacement. Mayor Ryan Arndorfer said Kendall will handle the responsibilities.

- The city council gave Public Works Director Vance Hagen the go-ahead to offer John Madson, the city’s former public works director and longtime department employee, the vacant public works employee position at $21 an hour with two weeks’ vacation. Madson left the city of Britt in January 2015 for a job with Hancock County Secondary Roads.

- The city council accepted the resignation of Cody Schutjer of Woden, who was hired as a full-time police officer in the fall, on Jan. 16, and approved Police Chief Dan Cummings’ recommendation to hire Bradley Hillyer, a jailer.

- The city council approved a pay estimate, presented by Veenstra & Kimm Inc., for $31,420.69 to McKiness Excavating Inc. of Mason City for work at the commercial park.

- The city council continued its discussion about the cleaning of city hall, which was done by Matt Matern, a public works employee who resigned in December. The city is exploring cost-effective solutions to fill the position. From Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2017, Britt received $1,891 in rental fees for city hall. The council is considering adding a cleaning deposit and increasing the rental fee. It currently costs $100 to rent city hall for everyone except nonprofits — for them, it’s free. Until the council makes a decision, the cleaning of city hall will remain a public works department responsibility.

Reach Reporter Ashley Stewart at 641-421-0533. Follow her on Twitter at GGastewart.

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