No financial crisis threatens New RichmondAs city officials gathered for a special meeting of the New Richmond City Council July 11, the topic on everyone’s lips was news that several California communities and an Ohio city had filed bankruptcy to deal with massive budget deficits.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
As city officials gathered for a special meeting of the New Richmond City Council July 11, the topic on everyone’s lips was news that several California communities and an Ohio city had filed bankruptcy to deal with massive budget deficits.
New Richmond isn’t anywhere near facing that kind of fiscal disaster, Mayor Fred Horne reported, because of the city’s effort over the past couple years to drop its debt, reduce expenses and cut taxes.
He said the local community recognized the economic challenges ahead and dealt with them before almost anyone else in the nation.
“Kudos to us for having the foresight,” he said. “We took those steps and I think we’ve done a very good job.”
Even while the city budget was trimmed, Horne noted, the city has continued to develop a strategic plan that prepares New Richmond for the future when the economic tide turns.
A good portion of last week’s council meeting was devoted to reviewing the adopted strategic plan and discussing what more needs to be done to make operations more efficient.
As the 2013 budget process is underway, Darrow said he’s been working with department directors to reach a goal of reducing the overall budget by 2 percent.
Even though previous adopted cuts have been significant, Darrow said it’s realistic to think that more can be done to save taxpayer dollars.
“It’s our goal to get that done,” he said. “We’re looking at all the department budgets very critically.”
As an example, city employees are trying to accomplish more tasks “in-house” rather than hiring consultants, Darrow explained. He said a master vendor list is being developed by all departments to see if more savings can be realized due to higher volume purchases. Employees are also being encouraged to turn off lights and conserve paper as part of their daily duties.
“These are the basic things we can do to save money,” he told the council. “It’s a lot of the low hanging fruit.”
The challenge with further cuts is making sure the services New Richmond residents have come to expect are not jeopardized, Darrow said.
The city will also be working on a 10-year financial plan in the near future to map out a strategy for dropping taxes in the community, Darrow reported.
Horne shared a mill rate comparison, showing New Richmond’s taxes are higher than most of the other communities in St. Croix County.
“We’re at a disadvantage,” he said.
The goal is to eventually drop the mill rate so the city remains competitive when trying to attract new businesses and new residents to New Richmond, he said.
As discussion about ways to save money continued, Alderman Jim Zajkowski suggested the city look into the money it spends for St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department protection.
Because New Richmond has its own police department, Zajkowski said there is rarely a need for sheriff’s deputies to patrol the community, yet the city pays for the service.
As a result, he contended, New Richmond taxpayers pay more than their fair share of the sheriff’s department budget.