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FTC mulls ideas for addressing deficit in proposed budget
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MONROE - The City of Monroe Finance and Taxation Committee will consider a new approach to economic development and ways to address its debt service before approving a budget to send to the Common Council.

The committee met Wednesday to discuss the 2015 proposed and 2016 projected general fund budgets, which were first reviewed by the committee at a meeting Oct. 7.

The 2015 proposed and 2016 projected budgets mark the city's first attempt at a two-year budget plan, a decision the council made over the summer in an effort to see trends, City Administrator Phil Rath said.

Rath said a two-year budget would help the city project what kind of impact its decisions will have on future budgets. When the city adds a new position, for example, it might seem like a logical decision at the time, "but it's not going to impact just this budget, it's going to impact budget after budget," he said.

"There's some importance to showing trends for benefits, employee benefits," Rath said. "Because if you're looking for a raise for one year, it's going to affect future years."

Rath added that the committee may ultimately decide to scrap the two-year budget plan in the coming weeks before the 2015 budget would be up for approval.

In the 2015 proposed budget before the committee Wednesday, general fund revenues decreased by $99,954, from $10,446,519 in 2014 to $10,346,513. Total expenditures increased over 2014 by $75,216, from $10,446,518 in 2014 to $10,521,734. The net difference of revenues and expenditures in the 2015 proposed budget represents a deficit of $175,169. The deficit for the projected 2016 budget is $90,570.

Committee members shared ideas Wednesday of how to address the $175,169 deficit, including the idea of having the city take on more of a role in economic development.

Committee member and council President Brooke Bauman said the city's contract with the Monroe Chamber of Commerce will be terminated Oct. 31 when executive director Pam Christopher officially leaves her position. The city's contract for economic development services with the Chamber is for $35,000, funds that the city might be better off holding on to, Bauman said.

"This $35,000 is a lot of money to be funding another organization," Bauman said, adding that the funds present an opportunity for the city to place more of the economic development responsibility on Green County Development Corporation as well as a "more than capable" city staff.

"It's not a huge chunk of money, but it helps, and I think it could help change the focus of the city."

Bauman said she didn't think the Chamber was aware that its contract with the city is terminated when Christopher leaves, "but legally it is."

Committee chairperson Reid Stangel said the committee would need to think about its approach to economic development some more ahead of its meeting Tuesday before determining what to do about the Chamber. Mayor Bill Ross suggested talking to GCDC Executive Director Michael Johnson to "get his take" on the direction the city should pursue.

Other concerns about the budget included committee member Charles Koch's opinion that the 2015 proposed budget is not addressing the debt service as much as it should.

"Something always has to give, and it's usually capital," Koch said. "We can't keep doing this."

Koch said he would "like to see all the figures (in the budget), not just the big ones, because that means little to me. I want to see where all the money is going."

Rath said the committee will look to make a recommendation to council Tuesday. The council would then have the committee publish the proposed budget and set a public hearing. The proposed budget would need to be published at least 15 days before the public hearing. Rath said the city is hoping to accomplish this prior to Thanksgiving.

"Hopefully we'll be able to get more people there (at the public hearing) to voice their support or opposition to it," he said.