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Soldiers Grove Board approves 2019 budget
Soldiers Grove

SOLDIERS GROVE - At their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, Dec. 6, the Soldiers Grove Village Board approved the 2019 budget and tax levy. The board held a public input session on the budget and levy prior to convening their meeting, and no citizens came forth to offer input.

The 2019 budget calls for total revenues and expenditures of $431,815 for the general fund, with a tax levy of $25,636 (down from 2018 by $13). The water utility budget calls for $116.491 in revenues and $105,425 in expenditures. The sewer utility budget calls for $162,010 in revenues and $171,851 in expenditures.

Sewer and water rates

 In the village’s 2017 financial audit, one of the topline recommendations was for the village to consider a rate analysis for the Water Utility and Sewer Fund.

The village’s enterprise funds – water and sewer – both experienced a negative net position change, for a  total of $2,530 down for water, and $45,038 down for sewer in 2017, according to the audit report. Both have experienced a downward trend between 2012 and 2017.

The auditor’s comment was that the utilities have under-taken capital projects and have not had full rate ad-justments for some time. They recommended that con-sideration be given to filing a rate increase application with the Public Service Commission that would allow the water utility to earn its allowed rate of re-turn, and the sewer fund should look at a more sig-nificant rate increase than in prior years.

The board was told at their meeting on November 8 by Kim Hollermann of Johnson Block & Co. that the small increases taken in previous years for water are no longer allowed by the PSC. For this reason, she encouraged the board to consider filing a petition to take the full rate increase.

The matter was put on the agenda of the next board meeting for consideration.

“Our hands seem kind of tied,” Shayne Chapman said. “If we file the petition, find out what the percent increase will be, then are we obligated to take the increase?’

“We don’t know how large the increase might be. It could be quite substantial,” Paul Nicholson said. “We need to be sure that we do this in a way that we can decide not to implement the increase if it doesn’t seem realistic to us.”

Village Clerk Tammy Kepler suggested that she investigate if she can file the petition, or if they need to have the audit company involved. Kepler agreed to reach out to other villages of a similar size to see what kind of increase they had experienced from filing for the full rate increase. The matter was tabled to the next meeting pending obtaining more information.

FEMA application

Kepler reported that FEMA has furnished the village with a checklist to review homeowner’s claims of damages from the Labor Day 2018 floods.

“We need to put together a committee to verify the seven homeowner claims,” Kepler said. “Basically we just need to verify that the homes are not substantially damaged.”

Trustee Vicki Campbell said that she thought it would be best to involve someone who is a building inspector or a construction license.

“I don’t think this is really that complicated,” Village President Steve George said. “Other villages are just having board members do this work.”

The board agreed to have a committee composed of Fire Chief Roger Olson, Marvin Hansen, Donny Olson and Roy Davidson perform the inspections.

2019 events

The Dairy Days and Pulling for Preston events will be items on the board’s next meeting in January.

Pulling for Preston will once again be in Soldiers Grove in 2019. Guy Nelson has asked to reserve July 27, 2019 for the event and plans to speak at the board’s next meeting. Nelson has indicated he is interested in helping the village to repair the parking lot and the gazebo.

The Soldiers Grove Lions will also be invited to appear at the January board meeting to discuss some issues from the 2018 event with the board.

In other business, the board:

* approved an increase in the per-call pay for fire department members to $10 starting in January 2019

* asked the fire department to review their bylaws and bring any requested changes to the board’s next meeting

* scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, Dec. 11 to meet with Davy Engineering regarding the village’s phosphorous compliance

* agreed to list the village’s old plow truck and box on Facebook Marketplace for sealed bids, and approve a bid at the next meeting

* accepted a bid for $10,348 to remove the property on Prospect Street if the bid includes the garage

* approved bonuses of $125 for the librarians, village clerk and director of public works.

* heard that as of Feb. 1, 2019, Village Clerk Tammy Kepler’s hours will change to Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.