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City of New Richmond commences 2018 budget process

By a vote of 4 to 2, with Aldermen Scottie Ard and Jim Jackson opposing, the New Richmond City Council granted permission for New Richmond/St. Croix County VFW Post 10818 to build a new veteran's center including senior and community components at a designated location in Freedom Park.

The "handshake" agreement allows an Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) proposal pending before the Department of Defense to move forward. The Post prepared and submitted the proposal which, if approved, could provide military resources including funding for skilled labor, trainees, fulfilling up to 20 percent of the project's required labor needs. In dollars, that could equate to as much as $300,000 of the estimated $1.5 million price tag for the 10,000 square foot facility.

Ard objected to moving forward with the agreement citing a lack of time for the council to conduct an adequate review of the legal ramifications of such an agreement and to provide the public with an opportunity to comment on the project.

"I think not getting into the details is a very big detail. Given that we are talking about Freedom Park, a public park, I would prefer to have more information, more detail, the square footage that would be dedicated to the parks within this building concept. Certainly I'd like to see a public hearing so we can have input from the residents of New Richmond to find out where they stand on this proposed project before moving forward with an official document or submitting an IRT. I think that is in due diligence of this council," said Ard.

Mayor Fred Horne emphasized that approving the initial agreement was just the first step, preliminary to all of the standard procedures required of such a project to move forward including submission of a development agreement and public review.

Budget

Council members got their first introduction to the 2018 budget including an overview of the collaborative process taking place between all of the city departments presented by Library Director Kim Hennings and Police Chief Craig Yehlik.

The 2018 Budget Vision states: The City of New Richmond strives to bridge our heritage with the

current and future needs of our growing community. We will accomplish this through:

• Providing reliable, safe and convenient services

• Striving to be leaders in local government through the use of innovation, sustainable best practices and fiscal responsibility

• Fostering transparency through community engagement

• Acknowledging the significant return on investment to our economy through the support of local programs and services

• Retaining and attracting staff to meet the growing expectations of or community

Over the past five years, the process by which the city budget is constructed has transformed under the direction of City Administrator Mike Darrow and City Finance Director Rea Ann Ailts, adopting a more organic approach. The process starts at a grass roots level with department heads working individually with their staff members to determine department needs. Department heads then meet as a group to look at those needs collaboratively to evaluate where needs overlap, where resource sharing might benefit the budget and how timing of expenditures might stretch the budget.

Creating the budget is a six-step process:

1. Overview of community goals/objectives

2. Department goals and future needs reviews

3. Development of budget vision in alignment with City's mission

4. Budget creation through collaborative team based approach; prioritizing and alignment of needs with mission and vision

5. Community engagement

6. Council budget adoption and public hearing

"Rea Ann and Mike gave each of us a set of questions individually. We then had time as department heads to take those questions to our staff. We had several weeks with those questions to identify needs in our own departments. Once we worked through those budget questions, we each met again individually with Mike and Res Anne to talk about what we needed individually. Then we, the department heads, came back together as a whole group to identify the themes that everyone would could agree on," explained Hennings.

The collaborative meetings have produced four budget themes for 2018.

• Provide reliable, safe and convenient services through managed growth of staffing levels

• Retaining and attracting staff to meet the growing expectations of our community

• Maintaining employee benefits package into 2018

• Acknowledging performance of employees through wage increases

Hennings went on to characterize the atmosphere as one of communication, education and innovation focused on the bigger picture, the greater good.

"There is not an atmosphere of, 'I need this more than you need that.' The answer is, how do we get it done. Let's think of innovative ways that we can save money or create revenue so we can all get what we need," said Hennings.

Although it is still early in the budget process, initial department discussions are calling for the addition of five full-time positions and three part-time positions.

Several trends provide a background against which budget discussions are taking place. Between 2012 and 2017, equalized value in the community has increased $168 million. Population has increased over the same period by 514 new residents or 7 percent, to 8,909. Operating expenditures in 2017 are roughly 1 percent less than in 2012. Construction of new homes, although volatile, is once again trending up.

Official approval of the budget isn't scheduled until November; however, the next step in the budget process is the Budget Lab scheduled to take place in September. This an opportunity for community members to provide input on the 2018 budget.

Work on the City's Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), the other major component of the city's financial operation runs concurrently with the budget process.

Projects are currently being prioritized with public engagement scheduled for this October and adoption of the plan scheduled for the first quarter in 2018.

Information about the Budget Lab and public engagement for the CIP will be available on the City's web site or by contacting City Administrator Mike Darrow at (715) 246-4268 or by email mdarrow@newrichmondwi.gov.

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