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City looks to trim $675K from 2019 budget

New wood chips are added around playground equipment Friday at Fink's Park in Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Hopes and dreams were laid out for the Wadena City Council at the first 2019 budget planning meeting Wednesday, Aug. 8.

While members agreed it would be nice to make everyone's dreams come true, the council is faced with a $675,000 deficit in the proposed budget.

City administrator Janette Bower said she felt she was playing it safe with the numbers this year as it was her first year on the job. She had few changes to note aside from a 2.5 percent increase to all applicable city employee wages.

The proposed budget showed a small general fund revenue decrease from $3,732,738 in 2018 to $3,711,392 in 2019. It also showed a $200,000 increase to total operating expenses from 2018 to 2019. The big jump there came mostly from a $107,952 increase in the police department expenses. Much of that is from the addition of a school resource officer salary and benefits in 2019. However, revenue is expected to come in from three other entities to offset some of that expense.

What really tipped the scales was the $1.4 million in capital expense requests from the different departments.

Those include:

• $550,000- Airport cross wind project. Local share is $110,000 after state aid.

• $470,000- a new pumper truck ($400,000 and a protective breathing apparatus ($70,000) for the fire department.

• $45,000- new police department squad replacing a current SUV.

• $320,000- street department requests including $50,000 towards replacement of a John Deere wheel loader; $200,000 towards replacing a plow truck; $50,000 towards a used water truck; $10,000 for two garage doors and openers installed; and $10,000 for a skid steer land leveler.

• $20,000- Park & Rec requests included $10,000 to replace the band stand floor and $10,000 to replace two bleachers at the softball complex.

With a quick recap from council members, Bower made note of several things she would check on including needs for mapping for the city, costs of increasing book availability for the library, costs of buying a water tank and trailer vs. a water truck, cost/needs for grounding aluminum bleachers, costs to build a splash park, costs/need for a quiet zone and Wifi options in the city parks, namely Sunnybrook Park.

Here's some more details from the various department requests.

Library

Director Marian Ridge noted that there needs to be funds made available to make for a great opening when the new library opens. While that may not affect the 2019 budget much, she felt a large book purchase would be necessary for the opening planned in 2020. She also made note the need for more staffing.

"We're already seeing circulation going up and no budget to support it," Ridge said.

She compared Park Rapids library, which had a similar circulation, only open an additional four hours a week and having nearly double the staffing. Ridge noted she'd be retiring before the opening of the new library, but these are some things she would recommend for those that will be around.

Fire Department

A fair amount of time was spent going back and forth with fire department members who were content on a certain type of pump truck and didn't wish to have a used truck.

They are looking to replace a 32 year old pump truck and felt that the chief reason behind doing so was because of the lives on the line if the old truck fails.

Mayor George Deiss in response repeatedly showed the members options for used trucks on his cell phone at less than half the cost. Again the fire department members noted that as a department a used unit was not an option. Fire department members had done their homework on what would work best for their needs, but the high cost seemed undoable to council members.

"We have to do our due diligence," Deiss said, noting that they had to find ways to trim the budget.

Wadena Development Authority

Janette spoke for Dean Uselman, who was absent, sharing the recommended increases. The only increase to planning and zoning other than scheduled salary increases was an increase for mapping updates to provide support for other departments. Uselman wrote that both Dave Evans and Dan Kovar can substantiate the need for this expense.

Dean also indicated in his letter that he was requesting an $800 increase to cover costs of hosting qualified prospective businesses.

Some discussion was also had about the Buxton contract. What of the cost should be covered by the WDA board and how much the city should pay into. There was also question about the future of the Buxton contract.

The next budget meeting is set for 5 p.m. on Aug. 28.

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