December 16, 2022 at 12:31 p.m.
Taylors Falls budget hearing quiet; river stewardship awarded
Monday night’s council session this week was one for thank yous from citizens bookended by a hearing on the 2023 budget and levy, and presentation of the town’s annual Riverway Stewardship Award.
Taylors Falls’ budget will be adopted at the final meeting of 2022 and no budgeting questions arose from the audience attending the Monday hearing.
Taylors Falls officials propose to increase some line items and reduce others for a total overall expenditure increase of about $35,000. The estimate for what the city spent in 2022 is $703,750 and it’s projected to be $739,430.
The property tax revenue amounts to be collected are calculated to be going up by 21 percent. Valuations data for city properties were not included in the hearing packet and valuations also affect the tax bill. The number of actual parcels contributing also impacts what each property chips in. Plus, property taxpayers need to be aware the local school district and county taxes affect their bill.
This council session was only focused on items in the budget. With the turnover in 2022 of the city clerk/treasurer post, the new clerk Mary Tomnitz, reports that consultants and staff are still finalizing the books. She said she expects to present final budget balances to council at the next meeting in December.
The city has been straightening out functions of staff that were left unclear (undocumented) including acting Monday night on officially acknowledging federal recovery program ARPA monies.
Taylors Falls discovered there was a forwarding of city email communications to a “private email address” that was not known about, until the receipt of federal money notification was brought to the audit team’s and council’s attention. There was $56,498 in ARPA aid deposited directly into the city bank account but apparently nobody was aware, until the need for the acknowledging receipt was pressed by state officials who channel funds.
Mayor Mike Buchite, not seeking re-election after decades of service, commented that the audit, following the former city clerk’s departure, has verified the funds are deposited. He declined to identify the “one individual” who had knowledge of the email forwarding. The city continues to look into the matter.
In other business: a very. part-time Lynn Longnecker was authorized to serve as a zoning co-administrator. He will be paid $25 per hour. The city needs to have about 24 hours of office help weekly and someone to also field questions, etc. Longnecker is a former elected official and has construction code knowledge and knows the city. The city council personnel subcommittee of Ross Rivard and Larry Julik Heine had advanced the temporary position and council action
See TAYLORS FALLS/4.
was actually after-the-fact, it was explained.
The librarian was also approved to spend $15 to have the walk/entry at the municipal library cleared when public works is busy. The money is from the library board controlled accounts.
The Request for Proposals is out for a new legal team. Kelly & Lemmons gave notice (Press council story November) that 2022 is their final year and RFPs are being accepted for new counsel until January 6.
Clerk Tomnitz had a closed session performance review Monday just prior to the council meeting, under terms of her emergency hire to fill the vacant clerk/treasurer slot.
She was granted a $1 per hour increase.
Taylors Falls resident Pastor Kevin Schumann chastised council, in open mic-public comment, for doing the performance review in “violation” of city policy— which he said calls for six months on the job. Council member Rivard explained that due to the emergency circumstances behind Tomnitz’s hiring; her contract included a compressed review date deadline. When three new city office-holders takeover in January, they would have only worked with the clerk a few weeks under terms of when a performance review would normally have come up.
Wisconsin Polk County Sheriff Brent Waak also was granted a few moments in public comment to present a plaque of recognition to Taylors Falls for “the spirit of cooperation.” The council approved use of the city watertower for Wisconsin emergency communications equipment placement, that would enhance radio signals in the river valley region. The sheriff said this saved Polk County considerable expense and time. The system is functioning well, he added.
Also a number of citizens thanked exiting council members for their achievements. Parks have been improved, a bike trailhead developed, streets and utility routes are in good repair, the financial condition is good, property tax rate has been reduced over their tenure, departments are well-equipped. John Tangen added that the council has made some tough decisions. but he felt actions were taken with the best interests of the whole city in mind.