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Howard Village board approves budget and tax rate

By Annette Aubinger

HOWARD – Howard’s village board held a public hearing on the budget on Monday, Nov. 27. It listened to resident concerns, a staff presentation and discussed the final budget.

In the end the budget was approved with an eight to one vote, trustee Mike Hoppe had the only no vote.
The levy approved was $6,146,847 which made the tax rate $3.92 per $1,000 of home value, an increase of 20 cents over last year.

The main reason for the increase was to set aside money for road reconstruction on Lineville so borrowing would not have to take place.

Before approval, a public hearing was held.

Resident John Hemmen placed some concerns about issues in the budget.

He questioned hiring a new assistant public works director where at one place in the budget it said $100,000 and another place it said $40,000.

He questioned why the health insurance rates were down.

He also wanted to know about the administrator making amendments up to $60,000 without board approval.

He questioned the YMCA incentive programs for employees.

He also questioned the golf membership rates.

Paul Evert, village administrator, responded.

Evert said the village switched insurance carriers and got better rates, so the rates will go down in 2018.

As far as the YMCA membership, that fringe benefit has been happening for years, before he came to Howard.

It is meant to keep employees healthy and hopefully a benefit to keep them working in the village.

He said about half use the benefit and if they don’t use the YMCA eight times a month, they are responsible for payment.

As far as the assistant public works director salary, 40 percent is paid by the tax payer, 60 percent comes from the utilities fund.

As far as the budget amendments, Chris Haltom, director of Administrative Services, said the village administrator making amendments under $60,000 hasn’t happened very often.

He also said this was a procedural item put in the budget from years ago.

The golf membership rates were increased, but still discounted so they could get new members joining.

Hoppe questioned adding an assistant to the public works director position.

He stated that the board was told Geoff Farr, director of Public Works, had a busy work load and worked sometimes 40 to 50 hours per week and took less vacation, but he did not see anything in writing.

He would have like to have seen a list of all his job duties.

He questioned why Farr couldn’t delegate some of his work.

Hoppe also questioned the money put towards the quarry and the road resurfacing.

He said in 2017 there was $25,000 to go towards the quarry, $10,000 was spent, where did the other $15,000 go? Is it in this year’s budget?

He felt it wasn’t clear.

Hoppe also disagreed with giving the employees YMCA incentives.

Trustees responded to the item in the budget on the hiring an assistant to Geoff Farr, public works director.

Trustee Cathy Hughes said she met with Evert about the assistant public works position and was shocked at how much Farr does. Trustee Ron Bredael said the public works employees are courteous and always do their work.

But, he said you can’t do a good job when you are increasing in size and not hiring help to do the work.

Trustee Craig Mc Callister said it is a big expenditure, but he felt all possibilities were exhausted and it is needed.

Though Hoppe felt Farr was doing his job, he said it doesn’t negate his responsibility to the taxpayers who he is working for and felt the big expenditure wasn’t needed.

He did not approve the budget because that was included in it.

Salaries of trustees and village president not approved

In other business, an agenda item came before the board to increase the salaries of the village president and village board of trustees.

Trustee Jim Lemorande did not approve of increasing the salaries. He said he didn’t take the job for the money and it’s enough what they receive now.

Hoppe agreed with trustee Lemorande.

Trustee Chris Nielsen was not in favor of an increase. He thought maybe sometime in the future it could be looked at, but it is fine now.

Trustee Ron Bredael felt it was an honor and a privilege to serve. He takes great pride working for the village, felt an increase was not needed and was happy working for the village the past 25 years.

Trustee Adam Lemorande felt it was hypocritical to vote on their own wages. He did suggest it still be looked at and there should be some sort of structure out there.

No motion was made. The wages stayed the same.

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