City gets new alderperson, elects new council president
Finance continues to hammer out 2013 budget

The City of Montello’s Finance Committee continues to hammer out the proposed 2013 budget, reporting to the full Common Council at Monday night’s regular monthly meeting.

Before they got to that, however, Mayor Mike Ott and the council discussed ward alderman vacancies and elected a new Council President.

Ott announced that the city will have a special election for Mayor in April 2013, along with the usual alderman elections for that year. Former Mayor Jeremy Kral was elected in a write-in race in April 2012, but resigned later due to a job change and move out of Montello. Ott, who was previously council president, has been serving as Acting Mayor for the past few months. He said he prefers to continue in that capacity rather than being formally appointed by the council, because the council has been having trouble getting quorums to meetings and the “acting mayor” designation allows him the dual role of 2nd Ward alderperson if needed to make those quorums. The special election will choose a permanent mayor to fill out the remaining one year of Kral’s former term.

In a 4-1 vote, the council elected Ken Streich as the new council president. Don Lloyd was also nominated for that role.

Council members discussed how and whether to appoint an alderperson to fill one of the 2nd Ward vacancies. Ott said he preferred waiting until the next election and letting the people have their say for those jobs, but other council members felt it best to fill at least one spot now, especially due to continued problems getting quorums at meetings.

Interest was expressed last month by Barb Jordan, who then submitted a formal letter of interest. The council voted to accept her appointment as a 2nd Ward Alderperson, and she will take office at a special council meeting November 7th. Jordan lists Montello Connections and the Montello Lake Association among her local involvements.

There has been much turnover on the council over the past year, with very few candidates on last April’s ballot, plus various resignations and the mayoral changes. Recent new appointments besides Jordan include Todd Turner and Ron Knutson, bringing the total alderperson count to seven besides Ott’s dual role.

Ott presented a summary of the work on the 2013 budget to date, the latest revisions coming from Finance Committee just prior to the council meeting. Discussion went on for about an hour with several questions from resident Karlene Utke, who was present at the council meeting, and urged the council to seek “professional help” in answering budget questions.

Ott initially reported an $81,000 revenue deficit that Finance was continuing to look at, but later found that the purchase of a truck in 2011 which was paid for with CD money cashed in 2012 recovered almost all of that amount.

In the end, Mayor Ott reported that if Finance and the council go along with a proposed list of about $34,600 in additional cuts, it would result in a proposed mill rate of about $7.77 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which is around 10 cents higher than last year.

The 10 proposed cuts included amounts primarily in the areas of Public Safety, Public Works and Leisure Activities in amounts ranging from $200 to $10,000, with most in the range of $1,000-$5,000.

If the cuts are not made, the mill rate would run about $8.15, which is a 48-cent increase over 2012. Don Lloyd reminded council members that the increase from 2011 to 2012 was 46 cents per $1,000.

Ott reported that reported that insurance, FICA and retirement fund increases will take effect in 2013. He also reported that employees will receive 2% raises, except for Clerk Dawn Calnin, who volunteered $6,000 of her salary to help pay for the increases.

During discussion, it was revealed that the auditors have still not yet finalized the 2011 numbers for the city and action was suggested to solve that. Todd Turner said it is not unusual to change auditors every 3-5 years.

Ott said the city is currently operating with a fund balance under 10% of the budget, while it is generally recommended to have at last 20% in that fund. There was some discussion as to what effect this might have on the city’s future bond ratings.

A number of items were debated, including whether it’s time to replace some trucks that are in need of either major repairs or replacement. Alderman Bob Knickerbocker called the dump truck situation “a hazard.” Mayor Ott noted that it may come down to cutting services if the city cannot afford to replace a piece of equipment.

He expects the Finance Committee to come up with a final recommendation at its November 7th meeting, which will be followed by a special Council meeting at 8:00 p.m. to approve the proposed budget that will be published in the Tribune this month for finalization on December 3rd.