In an effort to avoid a larger mill-levy increase, City Administrator Larry Paine highlighted a preliminary budget for 2011 that would eliminate two paid staff positions with Hillsboro Museums and freeze city salaries for the second straight year.
Even with those provisions, the 2011 budget includes a property-tax increase of 1.563 mills to 41.726, ending a streak of six straight years with a lower mill levy.
Paine reviewed key components of the budget during the Aug. 3 Hillsboro City Council meeting. A public hearing on the budget is planned for 4 p.m. Aug. 17 at city hall.
Paine said it had been “difficult” to draft a budget that would hold the mill levy at the current level of 40.163 mills, given the projection for no revenue increase for the coming year.
The elimination of paid museum staff would include the positions currently filled by director Stan Harder and assistant Verden Harms.
“I will be preparing a transition plan for how we move from a staffed museum to an un-staffed museum,” Paine said.
The line item for staff salaries in 2010 was $47,239 with revenue from admission totaling about $1,100.
Other components Paine highlighted in the preliminary budget were:
• a freeze on the purchase of new equipment, with the exception of replacing police patrol cars “in the balance of 2010 and in 2011.”
• the inclusion of debt service for a tax-increment financing plan used to pay for improvements in getting the Hillsboro Business Park ready for use by Midway Motors and future retail customers.
• the installation of new equipment in lift stations and cured-in-place pipe as the final phase of the city’s current sewer project.
• delaying a plan to set aside cash each year to replace the city’s $4 million fleet of vehicles on a rotational basis.
“Due to the impact of adding the annual requirement for equipment replacement to the budget, starting an equipment-replacement fund in this economy was not practical,” Paine said.
On a brighter note, the 2011 budget will feature “an emphasis on street maintenance,” according to Paine.
“Our bond issue is paid off in 2010,” he said. “We are planning to reuse the debt service from the 2010 payoff for street projects in our 2011 budget. This will give us approximately $1.6 million of new construction.”
Paine said the city is developing a projects-plan for streets.
“To be included in this bond issue is the amount of money that will pay for improvements on Ash Street this past summer,” he added.”
The Ash Street amount will be around $125,000, Paine said.
School safety issues
The council approved a plan that will change parking and loading/unloading practices at Hillsboro Elementary School. (See article and map on Page 1).
USD 410 Superintendent Steve Noble presented a plan that had been formulated cooperatively with school and city officials. The intent was to improve safety for school children when they arrive at and leave school.
Noble said the changes were even more important this year with the expectation that parent traffic and the number of students walking to school would increase with the elimination of an in-town bus route because of budget cuts.
Based in part on input from residents from the area, the council approved a plan that was even more restrictive than the one Noble had proposed.
With the start of school, parking and unloading/loading students along A Street, from the alley east of Wilson Street to Eisenhower Street, will be prohibited from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on school days.
Only buses will be allowed to proceed east on A Street past Wilson during peak loading and unloading times.
Parent traffic will be required to approach the school only from Eisenhower Street, and load and unload children at the entrance on the east side of the building.
In a separate but related matter, the council accepted an offer from the Safe Kids Coalition of Marion County and the county health department to purchase a flashing red light for the intersection of Adams and A streets, two blocks west of the elementary school.
Sondra Mayfield, representing the Safe Kids Coalition, and Diedre Serene, Marion County health nurse, said they were part of a recently formed School Safety Committee, which included representatives of the city’s police and street departments. The committee had concluded the intersection at A and Adams was a “problem area” for kids walking to school.
Mayfield said grant funding of about $3,000 had been designated to acquire a flashing red light, the polls and other materials for the project. The city’s responsibility would be to install the light.
Gari-Anne Patzwald, who lives near the intersection, said she opposed the plan. Patzwald said in her experience the greater danger was from children riding bicycles on sidewalks and crosswalks.
In addition, Patzwald said a flashing red light at night could lower property values in the area and may not significantly increase awareness of the four-way stop signs, as the committee intended.
Council members and residents also questioned the long-term effectiveness of such a light. They discussed other options, but were told those options would cost significantly more money.
Serene said, “We have the money (for the flashing red light) and we have to spend it, or else it will be gone.”
The council approved the project with the stipulation that a timer be added so the light would not be flashing when it wasn’t needed.
In other business, the council:
• authorized paying an invoice of $52,389 from Evans, Bierly, Hutchison and Associates for engineering fees related to the city’s sewer system project.
• approved a permit after the fact to allow the Marion?County Fire Chiefs Association to shoot fireworks at the Marion County Fair demolition derby.
At a council work session the previous Tuesday, the council had given the MCFCA permission to move with the fireworks show pending a formal vote at the Aug. 3 meeting.