City leaders approaching purchases with caution

City of Mitchell Finance Officer Marilyn Wilson said Tuesday evening at City Hall that department heads are prioritizing their budgeted capital purchases in anticipation of a possible decline in revenues.

City of Mitchell Finance Officer Marilyn Wilson said Tuesday evening at City Hall that department heads are prioritizing their budgeted capital purchases in anticipation of a possible decline in revenues.

"Everyone certainly is cognizant of the fact that our economy is not probably what it used to be, and we'll see how revenues come in for 2009," Wilson said.

Wilson's comments were prompted by a question from City Councilwoman Geri Beck, who noticed a capital purchase in the city's bills and asked whether a policy had been adopted regarding capital purchases during the ongoing economic downturn. Capital purchases are generally thought of as tangible items, including land, buildings, computer hardware, copiers and vehicles, to name some examples.

Wilson said she and the department heads met with Mayor Lou Sebert last week to prioritize this year's purchases, some of which may have to be postponed if revenues are lower than expected. A written report will be prepared and submitted to the mayor and Council President Jeff Smith, Wilson said.

In early December, the City Council and Wilson discussed the possibility of enacting a spending freeze similar to the one enacted by Gov. Mike Rounds at the state level. Later in December, Wilson said she was not recommending a freeze but had asked the city's department heads to prioritize their budgeted capital purchases into three categories: items they need to purchase immediately; items they could postpone purchasing until mid-year when the city's revenue position is better known; and items they could postpone purchasing until 2010 or later.


The concern about capital purchases stems from a fear that the economic recession will negatively impact sales tax collections, which are a primary source of revenue for city government. Through November, collections were still up 3.5 percent over the previous year and were outpacing the projected 1.5 percent increase in the 2008 city budget.

Wilson said Tuesday that she has received the sales-tax data for December but has not yet assembled a report.

Related reports have not contained good news. The state Department of Revenue and Regulation's December report of taxable sales from the Mitchell ZIP code showed a 6 percent decrease in sales as compared to the December 2007 report. Gov. Mike Rounds said last week in his State of the State address that state government's sales-tax collections were 2.1 percent less in December than in the same month a year earlier.

In other action Tuesday evening, council members:

- Approved, during the Traffic Commission meeting prior to the council meeting, a request from Tessier's to hang traffic signs off its building on the south side of its property rather than mount the signs on posts.

- Heard a report from Beck, during the citizens' input portion of the meeting, about an e-mail she received thanking city officials for opening and maintaining an outdoor skating rink at Munroe Park.

- Heard a suggestion by Smith, during the citizens' input portion of the meeting, that the Events Center Building Committee schedule a public-input meeting.

- Approved, sitting as the Board of Adjustment, the application of Doug's Platinum Storage for a conditional use permit to construct a building for storage at 3001 W. Havens Ave.


- Set, sitting as the Board of Adjustment, Feb. 2 as the date for hearings on the application of Mark Stedronsky for a variance to construct an enclosed breezeway connecting garage to house at 216 E. Sixth Ave., and the application of Robert and Sherri Porter for a conditional use permit for an auto-detail shop at 5100 Fiala Road.

- Approved a verbal report on the Traffic Commission meeting.

- Approved written reports from eight city departments and boards.

- Approved the application of Jason Bates, doing business as Big Dummy's, to transfer a retail (on-off sale) malt beverage license from 104 E. Fourth Ave. to 112 N. Main St. (currently the location of A&B Business Supply, which is moving to the former Pizza Hut building on Havens Avenue), where he also plans to have a fenced-in beer garden in an adjacent open-air lot.

- Approved Bates' application for a retail (on-sale) wine license at the 112 N. Main St. location.

- Approved a resolution that sets the fee for the use of public property for alcohol consumption (aka the street dance fee) at $500, which City Attorney Randy Stiles said was an increase; changes the policy on false burglar or fire alarms to include not only a warning for the first incident within a 30-day period and a $30 fine for a second incident within a 30-day period, but also a $30 fine for any other incident within 30 days from the last fine; sets the fee for copies of police and fire reports, such as accident reports requested by insurance companies, at $4 each; sets the fee for police and fire pictures at $2 each; sets the fee for police and fire reports CDs at $35; increases the fee for a burn permit from $30 to $150, which Mayor Lou Sebert said is meant to encourage people to dump items at the landfill rather than get a burn permit; and allows the city to charge 1.5 percent of the outstanding balance or $2, whichever is greater, per month, on unpaid billing balances.

- Adopted plats of Lots A and B of J.A. Harris First Addition; Lot 20, Block 9 of CJM Second Addition; Lot 3-A, Block 3 of Westwood First Addition; and Lot 10, Block 6 of Westwood First Addition and a portion of Commerce Street.

- Approved a resolution proclaiming May 1 "Silver Star Banner Day" to honor the Silver Star Families of America and its banners signifying the blood sacrifice of wounded and ill soldiers.


- Conducted the first reading of an ordinance that would rezone Lot 13 in the east half of the northwest quarter of Fiala's Addition at 5100 Fiala Road from a Residential Lake zone to a Single Family Density Residential zone.

- Set Feb. 2 as the date for a hearing on the application of Elks of Mitchell Building Association Trustees LLC for a special event malt beverage license and special event wine license for Sunday, Feb. 8, at the Masonic Temple.

- Set Feb. 2 as the date to receive and consider bids for a Water Division tractor-backhoe.

- Set Feb. 16 as the date for hearings on a proposed resolution of necessity for sidewalks and on special assessment collections for 2008.

- Approved an automatic supplement to the fire portion of the general fund in the amount of $100 from a donation of funds for supplies.

- Amended Supplemental Appropriations Ordinance No. 2295 to add $41,000 to bond interest to accommodate a Jan. 1, 2009, interest payment.

- Scheduled a joint city-school election for June 2 at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary, at which time the city offices currently held by Mayor Lou Sebert and council members Allen Lepke, Marty Barington, Jeff Smith and Travis Carpenter will be up for election.

- Approved requests to conduct raffles from St. Mary's Episcopal Church and the Dakota Wesleyan University Multicultural Committee.


- Approved a list of property tax abatements for reasons such as fires, veterans' exemptions, corrections and mobile-home title transfers.

- Entered an executive session that, according to City Attorney Stiles, was for the purpose of discussing one personnel issue and two contract-negotiation issues for which no formal action was anticipated.

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