Pierz Council informally agrees to no levy increase

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

As it has for the past eight years, the Pierz City Council agreed Monday to a 0 percent increase in the city’s levy. It will remain flat at $280,515.

The city showed a $104,000 surplus last year and after a budget meeting, where some one-time increases in the budget were made, the city estimates an $83,000 surplus for 2015.

The most notable one-time increases were an additional $20,000 for the dedicated street fund and some additional funds to purchase a new fire truck.

City Administrator Scott Saehr said otherwise everything in the budget was very similar to 2014, with a bit more budgeted for mosquito spraying. “But we’re gaining a revenue, so it balances, out,” he said.

“The reason we’re able to do this is simple economics — controlling our spending and paying off our debt,” said Mayor Toby Egan.

Recently, the City Council voted to pay off the remaining $110,000 of the Cassie Street bond costing 2.9 percent interest, using money from a certificate of deposit account accruing .9 percent interest. That pay-off is part of the city’s plan to be debt-free within 10 years.

“The money that we save in our debt payments far exceeds what our budget increases have been,” said Egan. “We take those bond payments and use those toward our budget and it’s worked out — actually exceeded my expectations.”

Egan said the Council started the policy eight years ago when he first became mayor to try to live within the city’s means and focus on paying down city debt.

“After we stabilized our spending, we used those bond payments to help our budget and a lot of our other projects,” said Egan. “Like I said, it’s not only worked, but worked beyond my expectations; it’s going very strong.”

Egan said city employees are very good as far as controlling their spending and not spending their total budget amounts, unless absolutely necessary.

“It’s the Council’s job to set that budget and it limits our employees to not overspend, because they only have so much in their budget — they’ve been very fiscally responsible, I just think they’ve done a very good job of working within the budget we give them,” Egan said.

Council Member Don Bujalski agreed. “When we look at and go down our line items in our budget — all of department heads did a very good job this year at watching their budget and numbers and making sure they stuck within them,” he said.

“We would hope that we could continue that (a 0 percent increase in levy). I don’t know that we can, but it would sure be wonderful,” Bujalski said.

The city does anticipate a $15,000 increase in its local government aid (LGA). Its LGA was set at $399,776 for 2014. In 2015, the city expects to receive $415,314.

The City Council is expected to formally approve the levy and budget by resolution at its next meeting. The levy must be certified to the county by Sept. 15. Once certified, it can be reduced, but not increased.

Pierz City Council Briefs

In other business, the Pierz City Council:

•Heard from CentraCare representatives that legislation limiting e-cigarettes went into effect July 1. The Council was asked to put a policy in place regarding the sale and places of use for the devices;

•Received thanks from members of the Pierz Commercial Club for the city’s support of a successful Pierz Freedom Fest;

•Gave City Administrator Scott Saehr the go-ahead to move the city’s email service to GovOffice which already hosts the city’s website. Each member of the Council as well as each full-time employee will have their own personal email account using the city of Pierz domain, at a cost of $500 per year for 10 email accounts;

•Approved purchasing 10 tablets — one for each member of the Council and for department heads as a next step to going “paperless.” The Council would receive its packet information via email and go through it during the meeting using the tablets. Each tablet costs $379.99, purchased through Design Electronics/RadioShack. In addition, going paperless is a part of the “Green City Steps” the city is just breaking into, said Saehr;

•Approved the purchase of a Ricoh color copy/print/scan/fax machine at a cost of $5,257 with trade-in and a quarterly maintenance cost of $63. The current machine constantly jams and continues to cause issues despite maintenance. It is expected with the Council going paperless, the machine may last as long as eight – 10 years.

The next Pierz City Council meeting is Monday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.