Blue Earth City Council passes 2008 budget
The Blue Earth City Council passed the 2008 budget at their meeting on Monday, April 21, with only two changes from the plan that had been presented at a work session the week before. Those changes both came under the proposed salary increases.
Upon a recommendation by City Administrator Ben Martig, his own salary was left the same as it currently is. He had originally proposed a 2.5 percent increase for his salary, but said that he felt any increase should wait and be done at the time that his contract is renegotiated. The rest of the salary increases will be effective as of this past January 1.
Council member Dan Brod asked when Martig’s contract expires and was told it had expired as of last Dec. 31. He then asked why it had not been renegotiated yet, and Martig answered that the contract auto-renews itself and has not been scheduled to be redone at this time.
The other item deleted was a proposal for new maximum salary caps for four of the highest ranking city employees, as had been proposed in a consultant’s study completed last year. That study said that the city administrator, police chief, public works supervisor and economic development director positions top possible salaries were too low, as compared to other cities this size. “If we up these highest positions then everything else is going to shoot up,” Brod said. “I say we don’t have it and just negotiate these salaries each time.” Brod made a motion to remove it from the wage proposal portion of the budget and the motion passed four to two. The motion to approve the budget itself was passed unanimously, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t discussion on several issues before the vote. The area causing the most debate was the library budget. Councilman Les Wiborg questioned why the library budget was at $188,000 for 2008, up $24,000 from 2007’s figure of $164,000. “How much of that is for salary raises?” he asked. Martig said that salary increases were about $10,000, as salaries went from $105,000 to $115,000. He also said that capital outlay was also just under $10,000. Councilman Rick Scholtes questioned that figure and Martig said it included new lights in the library. The line item for new books was also increased by $3,000. Wiborg asked several times if a $1,000 cost for the librarian to attend a seminar could be put towards book purchases instead. Mayor Rob Hammond pointed out that the library board determines where the money gets spent. Councilman Glenn Gaylord said it was aggravating that the council doesn’t have more control over the library funds. “We are the elected officials,” he said. Martig also pointed out that by state law, the council has to fund the library each year at the same, or higher, amount than the previous year. “We can remove the capital outlay amount from that formula, but that is it,” he said. Mayor Hammond said that means the library fund will be at least $178,000 in 2009. Martig presented a lengthy time line for preparation of the 2009 budget. It showed the process beginning now, in April, with a preliminary budget presented in September, and a final version adopted on December 15.