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City council passes preliminary budget

By Sue Sitter - | Aug 7, 2021

The Rugby City Council passed a preliminary budget for 2022 by a 5-1 vote August 2 at city hall.

Council members Matt Lunde, Gary Kraft, Joel Berg, Maurus Brossart and Frank LaRocque cast aye votes on the budget, amended to include funds for the park board initially cut in the proposed version. Council member Wayne Trottier cast a no vote.

The approved budget contains a levy increase of about six mills for the city general fund. Eighty-eight mills were levied for 2021, while the 2022 budget boosted the levy to 94.2 mills.

City Auditor Jennifer Stewart told the council the city would not levy for snow removal due to a decrease in snowfall in recent years.

Stewart explained bond payouts for the Chalmers Addition subdivision, owned by the Rugby Job Development Authority. The JDA functions as an arm of the city.

“You notice that we’re utilizing $31,000 and $20,000 of our reserves,” Stewart said of the Chalmers funds. “This is due in part to early payoff of the lots. For lots that have been purchased, the JDA has paid off the (special assessments) as they’re selling the lots, so that money is deposited into these funds in with the balance of the specials that will be collected in 2022. This is the amount from the reserves that’s not being collected because it’s already been prepaid to the city with those sales,” Stewart explained.

The budget also reflected anticipated $350,000 expenses for infrastructure needs.

North Dakota District 14 Representative Jon Nelson and past city council member Neil Lotvedt also offered input at the meeting. Nelson told the council various state programs might provide some funding for the city’s water infrastructure needs.

Lotvedt pointed out funds for sewer and water infrastructure should include the frontage road near the future site of the new Heart of America Medical Center on U.S. Highway 2.

“The city does need to support this project if the USDA funding goes through,” Lotvedt said of the hospital, which would be funded by USDA Rural Development programs.

Lotvedt added the new facility would place less demand on the sewer and water infrastructure than the current hospital site because the new building would be about half the size of the current hospital.

“I think the whole council here supports having a hospital in Rugby, there’s no doubt about that,” Rugby Mayor Sue Steinke said.

“We need to be better coordinated with the projects and the hospital,” Trottier said.

Nelson agreed. “We need the city involved in the hospital project on a daily or weekly basis.”

The hospital’s plans include re-routing the city-owned walking path to run through the hospital’s property.

Kraft pointed out funds from the American Rescue Plan, which the council voted to accept, could help the project.

Park Board members Tonia Dosch and Sara Radomski spoke out against about $4,000 in cuts in the budget. Dosch said the money “Is not going to make your budget float; it’s not going to sink our budget but it’s really the combination of working together as the city parks and city of Rugby. And it’s kind of a little bit of a connection that we have found that we’re able to hold onto and have support from our city to have our city parks. We’re a small town and we do a lot to bring in attractions to our city, which then brings up your taxes. We have the fairgrounds we maintain and all the parks throughout town,” Dosch said.

“It seems lately, the relationship between the city and city parks has gone down,” she added.

Dosch said she found out about the cuts from a citizen July 30. The board was unable to meet.

“We’re amazed at how this was handled. It could have been done much better,” Dosch said.

“We want to be there for the city and we need the city to help us,” Dosch added.

Steinke pointed out the park board had the option to levy 38 mills for their budget. The board has 11 mills available in their 2021 budget.

The council voted to add the funds cut from the park board back to the budget.

Council members also reviewed letters of interest from former council members Bruce Rheault and Lotvedt to fill a vacancy in ward 1. Trottier suggested using an interview process and a scoring sheet for each candidate to help council members decide who would fill the seat. Council members voted 3-2 to table the selection of a council member until a committee to interview the candidates was formed. Voters would have the option to choose the council member by special election.

Council members Gary Kraft, Wayne Trottier and Dave Bednarz would serve on the interview committee.

In other business, the council approved amendments to the 2021 budget, the municipal court report and the Rugby JDA. The council also approved a preliminary budget for the JDA and heard an update from Rugby Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Laurie Odden, who requested the council to consider allowing for posts on light poles to hang flower baskets and banners.

The city tabled a proposal to relinquish ownership of city streetlights to Otter Tail Power Company.

Council members will hold committee meetings Aug. 18. The council will hold their next regular meeting Sept. 7.

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