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TMCNet:  Council discusses police retirement funding and more

[December 14, 2012]

Council discusses police retirement funding and more

Dec 14, 2012 (Newton Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The Newton City Council met Thursday for a financial workshop, and for the first time in its history, the council's meeting packet was entirely paperless.

Councilors now have tablet-style computers, allowing them to access information they need to make decisions while also saving money. Board members listened to Newton City Administrator Bob Knabel as he went over the city's budget and recommendations, focusing on three funds: General Government, Enterprise and Designated Funds.

The General Fund is used to fund the needs for police, fire and streets. The Fiscal Year 2012 General Fund stared with a balance of $3,444,824 and ended with $3,391,078 for a difference of $53,746.

In the current fiscal year, which will end June 30, 2013, the General Fund is projected to lose 4 percent in revenue. Almost everything funded through it, except the Tort Liability Fund, will take a loss.

The City of Newton also has enterprise funds for operation and maintenance at Westwood Municipal Golf Course, water pollution control and landfill. Knabel said most of the enterprise funds, which also include debt service -- paying down the city's bonded debt -- and tax-increment financing, ended the year with budget surpluses.

Both the Water Pollution Control and Landfill funds ended last fiscal year with surpluses of $217,287 and $209,071, respectively. Knabel also pointed out that rebates soon will be going away for the North Central TIF district, which can be used to fund downtown projects.

On paper, he added, the city has about $19 million to spend, of which $9 million is tied directly to statutory spending that cannot be altered. That leaves about $10 to $11 million of discretionary spending.

Knabel credits city directors for being conservative with their money. However, he is concerned about the police and fire retirement funds, noting that many private-industry companies have fallen into dire straights financially as the result of their retirement funds.

Knabel stressed three factors he would like to see Newton work on: increase employment opportunities, increase population, improve the city's curb appeal and fill vacant buildings and increase local shopping options.

For improving population, Knabel would like to target young families. When young families come to Newton it will provide a next generation possibility to grow in Newton. Like many other cities in the U.S., Newton does not want to see its youth leave.

He reminded the board that the state has cut funding to Newton in recent years, but Newton's commercial property tax has caught the eye of the governor.

Councilor Dennis Julius was interested in adding more enterprise funds and wanted to remind council members that lowering taxes for commercial residents could lead to more businesses in Newton.

In addition, the council had an earlier meeting discussing city official funds us as car funding. Car funding for city officials was a subject that went into deep discussion. Other cities have car allowances for city directors, however, councilors pointed out that the directors might be getting a raise.

Councilors also said they would like to create a public works operations manager.

___ (c)2012 the Newton Daily News (Newton, Iowa) Visit the Newton Daily News (Newton, Iowa) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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