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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Council budget work focuses on spending

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Editor's note: This is the second of two news stories about a Le Mars City Council budget workshop Tuesday.

User fees and reductions in service are being discussed during 2013-2014 city of Le Mars budget work by the city council.

The amount of property the city maintains with full-time workers and seasonal employees is one example of changes considered during the Le Mars City Council's budget workshop this week.

Cutting the grass

Le Mars City Council members Tuesday looked over a map covered with patches of green colors through the city.

The map showed 424 acres of property the city maintains at locations such as parks, cemeteries and railroad right-of-way.

People who work for the city on a part-time basis mow and trim some of the city's public facilities.

If a part-time employee works more than 29 hours a week, the city will be required to offer the worker health care coverage, according to Bill Cole, Le Mars assistant city administrator.

Health care coverage reforms in the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress will impact the city's 2013-2014 budget.

Fifteen seasonal employees eligible for insurance at a cost of $3,000 per person could cost the city $45,000 to comply with the health insurance requirement, Councilman Rex Knapp estimated.

The city has to "get smarter" about caring for 16 parks and other areas due to the health insurance requirement and the cost of upgrading equipment, Knapp said.

He and Councilman John Rexwinkel serve on a council committee developing the proposed 2013-2014.

Rexwinkel suggested the city might mow areas such as railroad right-of-way less often.

"If we want to do it for beautification purposes, do it once a month instead of every week," he said.

The council removed some leased equipment from the public facilities portion of the 2013-2014 budget proposal for now.

City Administrator Scott Langel said a decision was needed in a couple of months because the city would be gearing up for spring work.

Delaying a purchase

The council trimmed $216,000 from the preliminary city budget proposal Tuesday.

The largest cut was $122,000 for a new dump truck for the public works department.

After 20 years, dump trucks are replaced with a new vehicle and the older truck serves in a secondary role to haul snow and trees, Steve Hansen, public works superintendent told the council.

"I can't be switching trucks with wings on them and snow plows and sanders and that type of stuff back and forth when we've got to haul snow," Hansen said. "So we basically have five trucks that haul snow -- they're older trucks, but we keep them up."

Public workers employees use the trucks to maintain more than 70 miles of city streets.

Hansen said he wasn't against removing the new dump truck purchase from the city budget as long as it was in the 2014-2015 budget.

Paying for technology

As proposed, the Le Mars Public Library would receive 10 percent of the $3.9 million in property taxes in the new city budget proposal, according to Knapp.

The library is experiencing a bigger demand for e-books than almost any other material, according to Sue Kroesche, Le Mars library director.

E-books are non-paper, electronic versions of a book read on digital devices such as Kindles.

Kroesche proposed buying a new technology service to allow people to read magazines on digital devices.

"That's something that's being added by libraries all across the country," she told the council.

The cost for the new magazine service adds $1,500 to the library budget proposal.

Knapp said dollars from Plymouth County government cover 5 percent of the library budget, but rural users represent about 25 percent of the library's customers.

"We're spending $100,000 for county patrons and the county is giving us $20,000," he said.

Councilman John Leonard said differences between the county dollars and the number of rural users had been discussed by the city for 15 years.

"Apparently the message hasn't gotten across to them," Leonard said of county supervisors.

The Le Mars Public Library is one of five city libraries to receive dollars from the county budget.

Council members discussed options to get more dollars from rural users, such as charging a a one-time fee for library cards to check out materials.

Kroesche was asked to provide the council with specific information about the number of rural users for options such as a fee for library cards.

Rexwinkel asked the city's library committee to brainstorm ideas for more revenue.

The council received a budget request of $421,838 for the library.

The library's non-property tax revenue for the budget is estimated at $30,500.

During the budget workshop the council reduced the library budget by $3,500.

The Le Mars Public Library Board will decide where the cuts in spending will be made, according to the council.

The council will receive information about the effect of budget changes made this week when the 2013-2014 budget is discussed during a noon meeting next Tuesday at city hall, 40 Central Avenue N.E.

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