Budget hearings loom for City Council

Mitchell City Council members will have many new funding requests to consider when they conduct the first of four hearings on the 2007 budget at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Mitchell City Council members will have many new funding requests to consider when they conduct the first of four hearings on the 2007 budget at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Councilman Allen Lepke said there are more new requests than he's seen in previous years.

"Obviously, we'll have to go through and try to make a priority list of what we think is needed the most," Lepke said.

Tuesday's budget hearing will be followed by another hearing at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, and more hearings at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 3 and Aug. 8.

All of the hearings are open to the public. Representatives of city departments and outside organizations will present their funding requests to City Council members, who will take the requests into consideration before adopting a budget for 2007. Total budgeted expenditures for 2006 were about $26.6 million, but there is no official projection for budgeted expenditures in 2007.


First-year Mayor Lou Sebert said he will miss some of the budget hearings to attend an out-of-state wedding. He said this week that he trusts the City Council and the city's department heads to determine the budget.

"Whatever they approve, I'll administer," Sebert said.

The new funding requests could include bleachers for the rodeo grounds and the ice arena, equipment for a proposed conference center, a matching donation for a development corporation fund drive, funding for a proposed soccer complex, the creation of a new city position to manage the city's office technology systems, new restrooms for a baseball complex and a clubhouse addition at the municipal golf course.

Putting a total price on the new requests is difficult, because the funding for some of the projects could be spread out over multiple years. Following is a summary of what is known about each request so far.

* Development corporation: The Mitchell Area Development Corporation plans to ask the city to match $500,000 in private donations it hopes to raise, but the city's contribution would be spread over five years, making this year's anticipated request $100,000.

* Rodeo bleachers: The non-profit Corn Palace Stampede Inc., which produces an annual professional rodeo at the Horsemen Sports Arena, wants the city to contribute $275,000 to help replace the wooden bleachers at the arena with aluminum bleachers.

The rodeo group, which also plans to contribute about $82,000 of its own money to the project, has said it is willing to do the project in segments, so the funding request could be spread out over several years.

* Other bleachers: Another bleacher request is expected for the city's ice arena. Council members plan to research portable bleacher systems that could be used for both the ice arena and the new outdoor aquatic center, and possibly even the rodeo grounds.


* Conference center equipment: A pending conference center proposal includes a request of at least $150,000 for equipment. The $2 million construction cost of the conference center would be funded separately by new property taxes in a tax increment financing district, approved Monday by the City Council; and new sales taxes from a three-hotel business improvement district, which is scheduled for council consideration in September.

* Soccer complex: A proposed 10-field soccer complex would be located on 63 acres offered as a swap for a small public lake access area by local businessman Roger Musick. The council is weighing Musick's offer against the projected $1.7 to $1.9 million cost of developing the site, plus the cost of road improvements at and around the site that some say would be necessary.

Sebert has appointed a task force to study the proposal and other potential soccer field sites, so the status of potential budget requests for a soccer complex is unknown.

* New position: Lepke said he might propose a new city position to manage the city's computers and other office technology systems. Currently, each department is responsible for its own systems. Lepke has asked city staff to report how much they're spending now on outside technical consultants.

"If it's what we'd pay a person anyway, I think it would be better to have somebody on staff," Lepke said.

Lepke said the position would be paid between $30,000 and $40,000 and could also be responsible for the city Web site.

n Clubhouse addition: The city's Golf and Cemetery Board plans to ask for $100,000 for a clubhouse addition at the Lakeview Municipal Golf Course. The money would add to the $75,000 of preliminary funding that already is approved to begin the project, but construction has been postponed pending the approval of the additional funding.

* New restrooms: A request of around $75,000, according to Lepke, is anticipated for new restrooms at the city's Cadwell Park.

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