The Platteville Common Council is continuing work this week on the 2013 city budget in anticipation of voting on the budget in November.
A work session of nearly three hours Thursday night added $30,000 to city spending, but isn’t expected to result in a change to the last line on the city budget.
The Common Council is considering countering the extra spending by not filling a position vacancy from retirement.
Common Council President Mike Dalecki called the 2013 budget “a reexamination of what we are as a city and what we want to do. … I think we really need to be looking at let’s find some more cuts and not just raise taxes.”
Dalecki said that nibbling in numerous spots could mean “We end up at some point with a budget that does nothing well. … Maybe there are some things we just can’t do anymore.”
One thing most of the city council apparently still wants to do in 2013 is fund the Rollo Jamison Museum, instead of spinning off the museum to an undetermined nonprofit organization.
Museum director Steve Kleefisch offered to reduce 2013 museum funding by $35,000, to $220,000, the same amount that had been proposed to be given as a grant to a nonprofit organization to run the museum.
“We will run the museum for $220,000, and we will not lose anything we provide to the public,” said Kleefisch. “The museum board realizes the seriousness of the situation.”
Kleefisch said the Jamison Museum Association was considering starting the process of planning fundraising, even though “that kind of knowledge is something the current staff doesn’t have.” He added the city would be responsible for $28,000 in accrued sick leave if the city spun off control of the museum.
District 3 Ald. Barb Daus said the city will have to do maintenance on the museum buildings whether or not the museum is part of city government.
“These buildings were at one point given to the city,” said Daus. “I’m not sure what we can legally do.”
“We’re not just looking at 2013,” said at-large Ald. Steve Becker. “I think that it’s important that we’re not sitting here a year from now in a similar situation. … The current proposal puts them on notice that things have to change. The only reason that we wouldn’t do this is that we’d put off the decision a year down the line. And there’s no reason to do that.”
District 4 Ald. Ken Kilian said he factors “providing some city funding to the museum on a long-term basis,” calling the museum “an asset to the city of Platteville.”
The largest restored cut from the original budget was the $20,000 that had been cut from four economic development organizations — the Main Street Program, the Platteville Business Incubator, the Platteville Area Industrial Development Corp., and the Grant County Economic Development Corp.
“The Main Street Program is directly involved in economic development,” said Main Street Program Executive Director Jack Luedtke, listing eight new stores set to open by the end of the year, with 75 to 80 employees, and three expanding stores, with more than 20 employees.
“When you look at economic development and you hit a home run with the [Emmi Roth] cheese plant, that happens once every 10 to 20 years,” said Luedtke. “Economic development downtown happens every year. … The dollars we have coming from the city shows very high return on investment, and we need to continue that effort for economic development.”
“You can go through a lot of cities and see really dead Main Streets,” said District 2 Ald. Eileen Nickels. “I’m not in favor of cutting any economic development funding. That is counterproductive.”
The council also verbally agreed to restore at least $5,000 for the Platteville Public Library to fund data processing costs. The 2013 budget had cut $20,400 from its contribution to library funding, but Grant County’s funding contribution is expected to increase from 2012, based on circulation figures outside the city.
Council members verbally agreed on $5,000 in new funding for the Platteville Housing Authority to fund an assistant position.
The PHA doesn’t directly receive city funding, but director Barb Argall said the PHA needed funds to hire someone to apply online for monthly funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“We don’t have reserve dollars to pay the landlords anymore,” said Argall, who said the agency requests $35,000 per month from HUD. “If we don’t do that, who’s going to pay the landlords?”
The council also discussed the concept of moving the Senior Center from 55 S. Court St. to the Municipal Building space vacated by the Police Department.
City Manager Larry Bierke said what the city might get for the building might equal the cost of renovating the Municipal Building, including an estimated $100,000 for a sprinkler system.
One change that won’t be made after all is closing the Family Aquatic Center one day per week, because the closing never got into the budget.
City Manager Larry Bierke had written in the budget foreword closing the swimming pool on Sundays. Parks and Recreation Coordinator Jordan Burress said the proposal was intended for Mondays, not Sundays, which would save an estimated $3,600.
Bierke said the goal is for Parks and Recreation to eventually pay for itself, but “we’re not there yet.”
One funding cut that apparently will take place is in tree-planting, for which the city is receiving a grant. The expenses were in the 2013 budget, but the work apparently will be done this year, saving the city $5,000 to $7,000 next year.
Even though the $30,000 in funding increases may be covered by not filling one vacant job, council members proposed cuts.
At-large Ald. Dick Bonin suggested cutting the $15,000 for a study of consolidating city dispatch with Grant County.
“I don’t think we should monkey with that until we get a county board that works together,” he said.
One idea that came up more than once was to save money by reducing mowing at the city’s two cemeteries, Hillside Cemetery and Greenwood Cemetery.
But, said Director of Public Works Howard Crofoot, “You people don’t hear the complaints … family members and the public think of us as the city,” and complain when the cemetery looks unkempt.
Dalecki asked whether additional fees could be charged for “what is essentially a free service that we’re charged with performing for perpetuity.”
The city charges $500 for a lot, $525 for weekday burials, and $600 for weekend burials. Finance Director Duane Borgen said 25 percent of fees go to a perpetual-care fund.
Dalecki also proposed finding a way to charge more to owners of Second Street bars, because “We have serious and significant costs that are borne by everyone, and the benefits are accrued by few. We’re spending money hand over fist for what?”
Dalecki said UW–Platteville’s enrollment growth benefits Second Street bar owners, and “We’re fooling ourselves if we don’t think we have any more problems than we did.”