March 25, 2017 Light Rain, 45F

Wise paints bleak picture at budget meeting

MORRISON – The city’s roads are in bad shape, and the city doesn’t have the money to do long-term repairs, City Administrator Jim Wise told aldermen Thursday in a special budget meeting.

“We can do emergency repairs, fix potholes,” Wise said.

But the city will have to find another revenue stream to do the kind of serious work needed, he said.

Wise called the meeting to ask the aldermen what their needs are for their wards as he prepares a budget proposal for next fiscal year.

The city will have more money to spend in 2021, when a $2 million bond for the sports complex will be paid off, Wise said. The city pays $190,000 a year from its utility tax to pay that bond off, he said.

A study was done in 2008 on the city’s roads, and about 20 of the city’s 26 miles of roads are “just about shot,” Wise said, but none have been repaved because of a lack of money, Wise said.

East Main Street is one of the roads that is deteriorating, and “that’s our main street in town,” Alderman Michael Blean said.

The city’s budget is stabilizing, Wise said. Although “the bottom fell out” in 2008-2009, the city is back to getting into a better financial state, he said.

“We were on a roller coaster, but now we’re looking at the second year of being stable.”

But the city is not able to save much money, he said. For every $1 it gets, it is spending 98 cents, he said.

Mayor Roger Drey noted that twice in the last month the City Council has voted to give relief for unusually high water bills. Although he sympathizes with the residents, there is no indication of faulty meters or human error in reading the meters, he said.

He expects more residents to come forward, and “if you choose to give them relief, you’re taking away from the budget,” Drey said.

Alderman Scott Connelly said the city officials will have to “sit down and come up with some sort of criteria,” for granting relief.

Alderman Marti Wood suggested the possibility of setting a hiring freeze or wage freeze for city employees. Wise said he didn’t agree with that as a solution, saying that public services would suffer.

The total revenue and expenses the city will have in its next annual budget have not yet been determined, but budgetary figures will be presented next month in another special meeting, Wise said.

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