Council questions funding requests for Senior Dining, library

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     This time every year, the Monticello City Council has to make some decisions regarding funding appropriations for the various city departments and services the City of Monticello funds on an annual basis.

     Looking ahead to Fiscal Year 2019, the items on the Feb. 5 council agenda alluded to just that.

     Without question, the council approved investing in Jones County JETS (transportation service) at $1,500 and Jones County Economic Development at a new requested cost of $10,000 (up from $7,600 from 2014-18). With regard to JCED, the council would like to see the office location revisited by the JCED board after their yearly lease is up on their office space in Anamosa.

     “Even with their lease, I would like to see them consider coming to Monticello at least once a week,” suggested Council member Chris Lux.

     The council did table the funding request of $4,500 from Jones County Senior Dining to help fund the percentage of meals served at the Senior Dining Center in Monticello.

     City Administrator Doug Herman informed the council that the funding request is based on a percentage of meals, and Monticello’s has gone up from 39 percent last year to now 45 percent. The last few years, the numbers have remained between 35-39 percent.

     “Are we getting more meals or serving more (people)?” questioned Council member Johnny Russ.

     Herman said he did not have the exact number of meals to indicate the increase compared to last year.

     “That’s a pretty substantial increase,” commented Council member Dave Goedken.

     Council member Tom Yeoman asked to see Senior Dining’s total budget “to get a better picture of what the program looks like” before making any funding decisions.

     The council also discussed the Monticello Public Library’s proposed funding request of $122,500, up $2,500 from last year. The increase is to help offer pay increases to library staff, of three full-time and two part-time employees.

     Yeoman asked whether any staffing changes have occurred within the library since the last council meeting, Jan. 29, when the council last discussed the library’s budget in some length. Kim Brooks, library board present, said no changes have taken place because the library had not yet met within the one week.

     Goedken asked how the library board could turn a part-time employee into full-time without consulting the council. Herman explained library boards in Iowa are different than other city boards because they have the authority to make those decisions without council approval, based on state code. Brooks offered that she brought the employee changes to Herman’s attention before the library board approved of it to get an idea of how much it would cost the city for additional employee benefits.

     “But I agree,” Herman said, “the more communication with the council the better.”

     Council member Johnny Russ interjected saying the staff change was necessary to keep a dedicated employee on staff. Brooks said this employee was made full-time because she is an integral part of the library’s services.

     “This individual was worth the extra investment and benefits,” voiced Russ.

     With the library’s request of $2,500 more than the previous fiscal year and the city’s funding of employee benefits, Mayor Brian Wolken indicated it’s more of a $10,000 increase. Herman said employee benefits are paid through the city’s Employee Benefits Levy.

     “The library is a perfect example of the way the government’s running,” commented Goedken. “It’s a run-away budget. We can’t keep giving money to it.”

     Yeoman asked to see how staff hours correlate with the amount of hours the library is open. Herman said he would get a copy of the library’s work schedule to how the hours are staffed.

     While the council informally agreed to keep the library appropriation at $122,500, they have the authority to decrease it when they finalize the budget after the public hearing.

     The council set a public hearing of Monday, March 5 at 6 p.m. on the FY ’19 city budget. A hearing will also be held at the same time to amend the FY ’18 budget.

In other city business

     • At the start of the meeting, Mayor Wolken swore in new Council At-large member Gary “Butch” Pratt. The seat was left vacant when Wolken was elected mayor. Herman noted Pratt was the only resident who submitted a formal application.

     • The council approved the appointments of Elizabeth Morgan at the library board, Zeb Bowser to the tree board, and Trint Adams to planning and zoning and board of adjustment.


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