February 14, 2016

Gardner council begins reviewing 2013 budget proposal

Mark Taylor
The Gardner City Council reviewed previewed two funds from the 2013 fiscal year budget on June 11.
The budget, which interim City Administrator Mike Press called “a spending blueprint for what you hope to accomplish within a certain amount of time,” must be completed by August.
The council will review each fund prepared by city staff during the next several weeks.
“Each fund is like a self-balancing checkbook,” said Laura Gourley, finance director.
The first fund reviewed was the Internal Services Fund, which includes monies earmarked for risk management, building maintenance, information technology services and utility billing.”
The 2013 budget proposes $1.8 million in Internal Service Fund spending.
Gourley said that includes a $91,000 decrease in Workers Compensation between 2010 and 2012 costs due to “significant safety efforts at all levels of the organization.
However an 8 percent increase for General Liability and Workers Compensation is included in the 2013.
For Information Technology, the 2013 budget includes $8,000 for two SCADA servers with redundant hard drives at the Hillsdale Water Plant and the Kill Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Gourley said PCs are currently in use at those locations and servers would be more appropriate.
Also included is a $20,000 “place holder” for a Storage Area Network that would back up all city files to a remote site in the event of a local disaster.
The 2013 budget also includes $15,000 for replacing 26 PCs using Windows XP.
Gourley said XP is no longer supported by MicroSoft.
“They won’t even talk to you about that product,” she said. “We’ve put off PC replacement for too long.”
For Building Maintenance, $334,000 is earmarked for replacing the roof on the Public Works Department’s Equipment Building and implementing energy audit recommendations.
For Utility Billing, $708,100 is projected for e-mail notification of account delinquencies, adding a billing calendar (showing billing due dates and shut off dates) to the city’s website, sending staff to a regional utility billing software training session, and creating a customer service manual.
The $3.8 million bond and interest fund reflects a decline in excise taxes to pay for street debt as a result of the declining construction market.
As a result, funds will be transferred from the Special Highway fund to cover portions of street debt through 2016.
Gourley added that five of 19 completed benefit districts are delinquent in payments.
The 2013 budget includes a 1 percent increase in property tax revenue based on the county appraiser’s estimate of a 1 percent increase in assessed valuation.
Gourley also said the city mill levy may increase up to 2 mills in 2014 for its share of the new elementary and middle school campus benefit district.
The school board and city council agreed last year to participate 50-50 in the benefit district.
Debt payments will begin in 2015.
An approved 2013 city budget must be filed with the state no later than Aug. 25.


  1. Judith Rogers says:

    Well, don’t ya just love those thieves who have got their benefit districts and now 5 of them are deliquent in payng their assessments. You bankroll the thieves who more than likely probably are getting “farm appraisals” on their properties and paying maybe $5 a year in taxes – you will get a lot of kids educated on that kind of taxation but those yokels want fire protection, police protections, streets, educated workers (except Mertz, past School Board President I believe, who says he is not concerned with kids dropping out of school because WE need more unskilled labor), etc., etc. They want the people to bankroll their lousy hides every way possible and are only around to drag in the dollars for their bank accounts. I hope every citizen is asking themselves who pays for those unpaid bonds since the thieves aren’t paying their assessments and/or who is paying for all of the legal costs to get them to meet their responsibilites???

    Next the city is raising our mill levy and our utility costs to cover the infrastructure needs for the new school. Do you think you might want to ask that City Hall Bunch when the mill levy and the increase made to utility costs will be lowered when those costs are paid for???? I want an end date on those costs and not seeing that increase in mill levy and utility costs going on forever and a day.

    Then I would love to stop the shell game of transferring the money from one pot to the other to cover their sorry planning and spending. If you have $5 Million in a certain fund, then that money CANNOT be used for any other purpose. The shell game has gone on way too long and is severly abused in my opinion.

    Then lastly I want to know what the city’s total debt is and I want a great big chart adjusted monthly and shown on every first monthly Council Meeting agenda so any and all can be very cognizant of what our debt is and if that debt continues to rise, then I would say every citizen should be very concerned. Right now from what I can tell and from statements made, that the city operates on the premise of what is the payment for any new debt taken on rather than looking at how the debt continues to climb and having a concern about paying all the interest on those debts and truly looking at whether it is smart to take on more debt and whether it is actually affordable. You bankroll a few more of those thieves who don’t pay their assessments on their benefit districts and you really are digging a financial pithole. Let those takers get their loans through the open commercial market – I dont’ want to be involved in the development business and I do not believe it is my responsibility – if those jokers fail, let it be on them since I am sick and tired of the jaybirds taking risks that I don’t want to be responsible for and yet the people are forever bailing out their rearends.

    Once again, the people better be doing their homework and starting with the budget they are working on and many other factors and if they don’t, they will pay the price which gets higher by the day.

  2. Judith Rogers says:

    On that monthly Debt Chart, I also want each instrument of debt listed including the principal amount borrowed, what it was for, when the debt will be paid and the total amount of interest that will be paid shown for each one of the instruments of debt and then at the end I want the grand totals shown – I want every citizen’s eyes wide open as to the debt responsibilities they have, what it is for and how when you add in the interest, you are really under water for a small town of 19,000 people. And I hope all are cognizant of how you got to where you are today and where you will be for years to come. Maybe those facts will make citizens think about who the Joe or Jill Blow is at City Hall making financial and other decisions for them and perhaps thinking they should be voting NO more often rather than rubber stamping anything and everything placed before them.

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