City budget critics want more

A city of Marshalltown’s press release published in its enterity on the front page which explained city council actions impacting the tax rate, use of Local Option Sales Tax funds, and E-911 wages has not completely satisfied two residents who told city council members “do your job.” Their comments were made after a budget presentation at a Feb. 12 city council meeting.

Residents Reed Riskedahl and Jim Palmer made the “do your job” statements during the public comment segment of the meeting. Their remarks came shortly after City Finance Director Diana Steiner’s detailed FY19 budget plans. That budget is effective July 1 and ends June 30, 2019.

When contacted by telephone to gauge his comments on the city’s press release, Riskedahl asked the T-R to reference a letter to the editor, which appears in today’s edition.

A portion of it reads: “City administrator Jessica Kinser has given her response (via the press release) to statements and questions about the change in E-911 taxation and expenditure (he discusses items that are important: Planning for large debt service for the new police and fire building, careful control of other funds, while using the Local Option Sales Taxes, and finally maintaining property tax levies at a similar level as the two previous years. I might give her praise — if she and other city officials had simply taken the $582,000 that previously was levied for the E-911 costs and intentionally placed those potential funds as “unavailable” in the “assumptions” for the budgeting. This is the critical issue. This omission is a clear showing the city truly did identify this tax levy as I have termed “found” money!

Had this been set aside as unavailable, the city budgeting process would have been done truthfully. We would have shown exactly how our expenses (regardless of funds) truly did exceed our income. Kinser’s contention that they are taxing at the legal maximum is legal, but not right. As I asked the council on Monday evening, ‘make this right’.”

Palmer is a local businessman and co-owner of American Aluminum Seating Co.

Palmer said he had not read the city’s press release in its entirety.

Referencing the current budget discussion, he said: “There are too many ‘yes’ votes by the city council.”

Palmer said he was not sure if he would attend the Feb. 19 city council’s FY 19 budget work session, but is planning to attend a March 5 public hearing to approve the budget.

Fourth ward councilor Al Hoop had a different take.

In speaking of the press release, he said: “I think that’s probably as good of a plan as we can have. There is always someone who will argue with that, but I think it is a good idea. Everything will fit together when we are done.”

The city council will work again on the FY 19 budget at a noon, Feb. 19, meeting in city council chambers. The next regular city council meeting is 5:30 p.m., Feb. 26, in council chambers. For complete agenda packets and to subscribe to agenda notices and department news, visit Marshalltown-ia.gov.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com