City to delay decision on funding move

The Hillsboro City Council opted at its Sept. 21 meeting to wait until after the first of the year to decide what direction to go for funding the city?s economic-development staff position into the future.

The council had voted Aug. 17 to cover the city?s portion (86.83 percent) of the $63,954 salary-and-benefits package for the director position in 2011 with transfers from the electrical utility.

Councilor Shelby Dirks, who was not able to attend the Aug. 27 meeting, strongly challenged the council?s decision at the end of the council?s Sept. 7 meeting.

Dirks said the position should be funded with a mill-levy increase designated for the city?s industrial fund via a ballot initiative.

Dirks?s preference was voiced in absentia at the Aug. 27 meeting by Mayor Delores Dalke.

When City Administrator Larry Paine said at that meeting it would not be possible to get a mill-levy referendum on the November ballot in time for 2011 funding, the council voted to cover the contract obligation for 2011 with fund transfers from the electrical utility.

At last Tuesday?s meeting, Dirks said he was under the impression the council had informally agreed in work sessions to put the item on the November ballot.

?How else are we going to pay for (the position)? It?s in the budget,? Dirks said.

?It was never determined we were doing a mill levy (vote) for this deal,? Councilor Bob Watson responded. ?It?s possible we might use a mill levy, but I?m not prepared to do it right now. I certainly wasn?t prepared to put it on the ballot for November.?

The two other council members, Kevin Suderman and Byron McCarty, both said they had understood that funding the position with utility-fund transfers was the council only?s option given the nearness of the November election.

They also said they had not made up their mind on the best way to fund the position long term.

?For me,? Dirks said, ?the bottom line was (funding the position) wasn?t in the budget, and anytime you go and steal money from the electric fund to pay for city government, it?s just a sneaky way of taxing. Even?tually, we?re going to have to raise the rate for electricity to compensate.?

During the discussion, Paine retrieved and distributed a schedule of transfers that had been approved for the 2011 budget. It indicated a $40,000 transfer had been allocated from the electric fund to the industrial fund.

When Suderman asked Paine about funding methods other cities have used in similar situations, Paine said practices have varied among three options: (1) a mill-levy increase designated for the general fund, (2) a mill-levy increase designated for a special fund or (3) by utility fund transfers.

?It?s a case-by-case question,? he said.

Paine reminded the council that it has used utility funds to pay for city projects in the past.

?It seems you have bought off on it conceptually,? he said.

Having stated their openness to discussing an election for a mill-levy initiative, the council then discussed timing.

The next scheduled election after November would be the local election in April; a tax initiative could be included on the ballot at no expense to the city.

Dalke said her only concern about having an initiative placed on the local-election ballot is that experience has shown that candidates running for office on that ballot are judged almost exclusively on their position on the tax issue rather than their general qualifications to serve.

Paine said calling special election beyond the traditional schedule would cost would be an expense to the city.

The issue was formally tabled until January 2011.

Other business

In other business, the council:

? approved an amendment that would extend by one year the city?s electric franchise contract with Westar to serve customers in the Hillsboro Industrial Park while the city decides if it wishes to take over as the electrical provider to companies there.

? approved paying an invoice for $16,380 from Vogts-Parga Construc?tion for infrastructure work competed at Hillsboro Business Park, and an invoice of $2,198 from Reiss & Goodness Engineers for the remainder of the engineering fee.

? approved the mayor?s appointment of Alan Goldsby and JoAnn Knak to the board that manages Salem Home, and reappointed Vince Driver for another term on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

? head from Paine that the city is working toward a contract with a company that will use divers for maintenance work on the city?s small water tower. The city is working in partnership with Marion to use the same company for maintenance on the clear well the cities share at Marion Reservoir.

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