Reedsburg continues to make strides in reducing its debt.

At its Aug. 12 meeting, the Reedsburg Common Council unanimously approved to change its policy on how much money it can designate towards debt service from its undesignated fund balance. Baker Tilly, the city’s auditor, also presented the city’s 2018 financial audit showing it’s in good financial standing.

The city’s former policy was to maintain the general fund’s undesignated balance at 25% to 30% of the subsequent year’s operating expenditure budget or three months of expenses. The change would allow the city to put down additional money towards retired debt when the number exceeds that percentage.

If there isn’t any debt to retire, the money will go towards capital improvements based on need. The item was also given the OK by the finance committee.

City Administrator Tim Becker said the city’s undesignated fund balance has been as high as 34% and the city wants to use the additional funds to retire debt. He said having a policy in place helps bond readers understand the city is reducing its fund balance to pay down debt.

“They don’t want to see a fluctuation in that bond at all without a policy,” Becker said.

Baker Tilly Firm Director Amanda Blomberg said the council made a good choice in adopting a policy to assist in further reducing the city’s debt.

“It’s good to have a plan,” she said to the council.

Debt service made up 14% of the city’s $7.4 million general expenditures, according to the city’s audit report. Public service made up 44% of expenditures, public works 17%, general government 14%, parks, recreation and education 8% and 3% other. Since 2014, expenditures for debt service were between 16% to 24%, according to the report.

The report also showed general obligation debt secured by the tax levy totaled $20 million, with $15 million towards the utility and $5 million of city debt. The amount is 68% of the debt limit, or $2,145 per capita. The amount is a decrease of $80 from last year. Blomberg said while the amount is high, three fourths of the funding for the general obligation debt mainly comes from the utility user fees, not just the tax levy.

“It’s a source other than the tax levy,” she said. “Which is a good thing if it’s going to be that high.”

Without utility revenue, the tax levy pays for 11% of debt service to non-capital expenditures. The recommendation maximum is 20%, Blomberg said. Unrestricted general fund balance, or total cash on hand, was at 42% or five months to cover operating expenses. The recommended minimum is about 20% or two months. Total general fund balance was $5.9 million.

Ordinance change

The council unanimously approved an ordinance change to its arts in public places annual funding amount for the arts committee. The change means the committee will become a part of the city’s annual budget process, setting aside a certain amount for it to use throughout the year. The arts committee used to receive 1% of the general operating budget. In 2019, the arts committee received $7,500 from the city.

The council also approved a first reading and set a public hearing for Aug. 26 regarding changes to its general code of ordinances.

Other business

The council approved with a 8-1 vote to deny a claim from Schneider Enterprises for damage to a door done by officers during an emergency of the Reedsburg Police Department. Alderperson at Large Brandt Werner voted in opposition.

The council approved $8,840 in Webb Fund money to help cover costs for the Reedsburg Area Ambulance District to purchase an advanced life support child mannequin. The mannequin will be used for EMS staff, nurses and paramedics with the Advanced Pediatric Life Support group at Reedsburg Area Medical Center to train for child emergencies. Total costs of the mannequin is $12,000.

The council approved a $2,600 public arts grant application for the Reedsburg Area Historical Society to preserve and display 9-10 pieces of art work from Reedsburg cartoonist Claire Briggs. The decision was made with an 8-0-1 vote with First District Alderperson Craig Braunschweig abstaining.

Mayor David Estes shared in his reports the city’s estimated population censuses for 2019 so far is 9,639 people. Estes said the number represents a 34% increase for Sauk County in the same time period.

The council unanimously approved to appoint Beth Voigt to the Reedsburg Arts Committee.

Follow Erica Dynes on Twitter @EDynes_CapNews or contact her at 608-393-5346.

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