Manhattan Beach City Council
Web posted September 12, 2017
By Bill Monroe, Northland Press Correspondent
The Manhattan Beach City Council voted to keep the City budget at $70,000 and to resist pleas from residents to rebate some of the town’s cash reserves when it met in regular session Tuesday, September 5. Mayor Paul Allen, Council members Janis Allen, Marlene Yurek, Barb Hanson Wannebo and City Clerk and Treasurer Amy Wannebo were present.
During an Open Forum Session, resident Larry Wannebo said that the City auditor has stated that the City has $300,000 in the bank. He said the City had adopted a Fund Balance Policy to “provide and maintain an unreserved General Fund balance of 50 percent of budgeted operating expenditures” or about $35,000. In light of this, Wannebo asked the Council to consider assessing no property taxes until the reserves are brought down in line with the policy. Several other residents spoke in favor of some sort of tax freeze or rebate.
During discussions of the 2018 budget, Mayor Allen said Crow Wing County sets property values and the taxing capacities of each City in the county. He said the taxing capacity of Manhattan Beach is $296,500. "If the City does not take that in taxes, then the county will,” he said. Either way, the taxpayer pays the same amount in taxes. The policy we have is not the law, it is simply a guideline, “ he said. “We are much better off than many cities.”
The budget amount set at the meeting can be reduced by the end of the year but may not be increased.
Road and Building Funds
When the City’s auditing firm presented the annual audit it noted that a resolution or motion should be made to create both a building fund and a road fund that were noted in the City’s financial records. In the months since then, a search of past minutes has not found any reference to such a motion. However, Council member Hanson Wannebo reported that in the August 2008 minutes there is a reference to the funds. It is her belief that the funds were established in 2007.
It has been the Council’s practice to place $5,000 in each of the funds each year, and then draw down monies as needed for projects. However, since no resolution to create the funds could be found by the auditor, the audit recognizes all of the fund monies in the general fund without any designation that they are in the two separate funds.
Over ten years, there should be $50,000 plus $7,500 in state aid money designated in a road fund and $50,000 less any money spent on the City Hall building designated in a building fund. Clerk Wannebo was asked to determine the amount spent on the building during that period. The Council plans to pass the appropriate motions to create the two funds at its October meeting.
Earlier in the year, City Clerk Wannebo had requested the purchase of a recording device and was told that the item would be discussed at budget time. The item was placed on the September meeting agenda. During an Open Forum citizen Larry Wannebo supported purchasing a recorder. He said the device would:
“Help the Clerk ensure accurate minutes;
“Allow the Clerk to check the recording for clarifications;
“Allow the City to post the recordings on the City website, thus giving people more reasons to visit the City website;
“Allow seasonal residents, distant land owners and other citizens to access City meetings;
“Enable citizens to download from the City website rather than asking the City Clerk for copies of the recordings and
“Enable the Clerk to archive the recordings for 12 months.”
Clerk Wannebo said she had found a device that would work for her purposes at a cost of $69. Mayor Allen said the Council would need to formulate a policy on how the device would be used. Wannebo said she would research polices used by other cities of similar sizes and bring them to the next Council meeting.
Council member Barb Hanson Wannebo asked if the recordings would be posted online. Clerk Wannebo said they should. “Is that your opinion?” Hanson Wannebo asked. “Yes,” Clerk Wannebo replied. “I’m not in favor of that,” Council member Janis Allen said and then made a motion to purchase the recoding to be used only for the purpose of assisting the Clerk in preparing Council minutes. The motion, seconded by Hanson Wannebo, carried.
Council member Yurek moved, Hanson Wannebo seconded not to use the recording device until the Council had approved an operating policy for its use. The motion carried.
Speed Control Signs
Mayor Allen said he had fielded several resident complaints about speeders along County Road 66. He said the City could purchase two solar powered speed control signs for about $10,000 installed, assuming Crow Wing County allows their installation. The units feature wi-fi-controlled software and 100,000-hour batteries. The Council voted to get quotes on purchasing the signs.
Crosslake Police Contract
Mayor Allen said he had been approached by the Crosslake Police Department to determine if the City had any interest in contracting for additional law enforcement protection. During an Open Forum session, several residents spoke out against the idea. The Council decided to not contract with Crosslake at this time and to see what impact the new speed control signs have on slowing traffic in the area.
The Council again discussed whether Council members should be treated as employees or independent contractors. During the City’s annual audit its auditing firm noted that council members should be treated as employees and not independent contractors as has been the case for years. At the August Council meeting Mayor Allen said he had reviewed an IRS document on the subject and could find nothing in the document to support the audit company’s recommendation. The Council voted to table the subject pending further research into the matter.
Clerk Wannebo read e-mails from the auditing firm and the League of Minnesota Cities stating that elected officials must be treated as employees and not independent contractors. Council member Hanson Wannebo asked why the State Auditor had never questioned this practice over the years and moved that the matter be tabled another month until the State Auditor could be consulted and information could be gathered about possible workers’ compensation insurance costs as well as IRS revenue rulings cited in the email from the City’s auditor. The motion passed.
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