City tackles tough times

RaeLynn Ricarte
managing editor

The City Council has decided to shelve Mayor Louis Janke's “strategic considerations” list to pare down expenses and raise revenue until work groups have been formed to explore the available options.
Councilor Nancy Foll recommended that city officials and citizens delve into the 14 choices on the list and decide which should be given further consideration.
“I can't help but think I really like the idea to do more research,” she told the council at the Dec. 11 meeting where the issue was discussed.
Citizens will be sought to serve on the committees once the council has set up an operational structure, said Janke.
He told the council he didn’t expect immediate decisions, he just wanted to know if there were options that should be discarded before time was spent on them.
Councilor Jack Smith agreed with Foll's recommendation because it meant that every potential fee increase or cut in programs to balance the budget would be thoroughly vetted.
“It sounds like more emphasis on digging and getting information,” he said.
Foll told Janke and the council that she would find out more the structure of committees used by other cities.
Janke presented the council with the strategic list after the city encountered difficulty balancing the 2019-20 budget of $19.6 million.
On the mayor’s list was the possibility of asking voters to approve a city sales tax on top of the state tax of 7.6 percent.
He estimates the city could make $400,000 per year by enacting a local sale tax.
The council agreed with the mayor that it would be a “tough sell” to get voters to approve that proposal.
“The only thing I like about sales tax is that we have a lot of people coming to town and using city services that are paid for by citizens,” said Janke.
“I agree but a sales tax hurts the poor the most,” said Councilor Missy Stalp.
Janke reminded the council that action needed to be taken before the next budget cycle.
“These could be the easy decisions. The hard ones could come later if we don't act,” he warned.