John Skipper Column: The delicate process of city budgets

2012-11-26T00:01:00Z 2014-10-20T14:47:00Z John Skipper Column: The delicate process of city budgetsBy John Skipper Mason City Globe Gazette
November 26, 2012 12:01 am  • 

We’re getting close to the time when City Council members begin deliberations on how to spend our money in the next fiscal year.

It is not an easy task. In our personal lives, we all notice when utility bills go up and when it costs more to put gas in our vehicles.

The same holds true for the city with its bills.

The public expects the council to hold the line on spending. But the council, like the rest of us, has to figure out how to pay the bills and yet invest in the city’s future.

One way of doing that is to look at possible ways of making budget cuts.

Two years ago, Mayor Eric Bookmeyer, Councilman Scott Tornquist and others questioned the budget of the Mason City Human Rights Commission, which received $127,162 in city money in 2009. By comparison, the Fort Dodge HRC received $10,075 and Marshalltown’s commission got no city funds.

It would seem proper for Mason City officials to at least look at why Mason City spent $127,000 while other cities were spending next to nothing.

The main reason is Mason City’s commission investigates the complaints it receives; other cities pass the complaints on to the state to review.

There’s more to it than that but Bookmeyer and Tornquist were criticized by some in the public and even by some council members for questioning the commission’s budget.

Why pick on them, some asked.

This year, the council looked at the possibility of instituting “managed competition” with the Sanitation Department.

It’s a process where the city would solicit bids for garbage pickup — and the Sanitation Department could also bid on it.

The idea was to determine how the city could get the biggest bang for its buck — but the reaction of many was: Why fix something that ain’t broken? Why pick on them?

Eventually, the council decided the present system is working well. So “managed care” was put on the shelf for now.

Last week, Tornquist noted Highland Park golf course is losing about $75,000 so far this fiscal year and has been losing money for years.

He asked if it wasn’t time for the city to discuss the possibility of selling it.

Just by bringing it up, he’s likely to find out how the public feels about it.

Some might say kill it. Others will say: Why pick on the golf course?

It’s all part of the budget process — par for the course, you might say.

Reach John Skipper at 421-0537 or john.skipper@globegazette.com.

Copyright 2015 Mason City Globe Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. bradford2
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    bradford2 - November 26, 2012 6:05 pm
    The money for the hrc and the golf course is not as much combined as what they have spent on the deadhorse they call downtown. Pay for a streetscape that the locals have little to go downtown for. Yet our streets are crumbling the sewers are broken but we have a taxpayer funded hotel to show off. How many people were asked did you want to give money to the downtown? The same that will be asked do you want to sell the golf course? They decide. And they are driven by the c of c's wants.
  2. bigbrown828
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    bigbrown828 - November 26, 2012 4:42 pm
    Mr Skipper needs to look into the facts. Highland Park did not lose $75k this year. Most of that debt came when Park Board member Brian Diehl came up with a plan about 7 years ago to purchase the Pro Shop from Mr Pritchard, take over the golf cart leases, to not renew a lease agreement on the concession and have the city run it, and to purchase a $30k computer system when in truth all they needed was a card reader. The golf course also lost a substantial amount of money in the 2008 flood year
  3. Another
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    Another - November 26, 2012 9:15 am
    If you will look into the archives of the Highland Park Golf Course controversy, you will notice that poor management by John Pritchard, a contracted employee, has been noted for the last 5-6 years. He is a PT employee with a yearly contract; BUT he receives IPERS.. The city needs to take a look at the amount of money he receives plus the share of IPERS the city pays into his retirement fund. The sale of the farmland next to the golf course, plus a new manager would make a HUGE difference.
  4. JB Johnson of Britt
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    JB Johnson of Britt - November 26, 2012 7:31 am
    how much is that Blue Zone costing you
  5. bt
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    bt - November 26, 2012 6:41 am
    Delicate? Has yet another word been redefined? What's delicate about any government with taxing authority? You pay what is demanded or the government starts a legal process that results in the sale your property or other assets. Brutal is a more appropriate word.
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