By Ben Rodgers
HOBART – The Hobart village board agreed Wednesday, April 8, to allocate 2019 surplus funds to new projects.
Village Administrator Aaron Kramer said there is a surplus of $273,769 in the unreserved fund balance following the 2019 budget.
“Tonight I’m asking you to do very little with the surplus simply because I don’t know what this fiscal year is going to look like,” Kramer said.
HIs recommendations were to use roughly $6,500 to purchase a new ballot tabulator to improve election operations, an amount not to exceed $50,000 for safety improvements at Hillcrest Elementary School and a projected $69,000 for safety improvements at village hall.
“This is not just to address this current COVID-19 sitution, but also address public safety, which is what we need,” Kramer said.
That left the remaining approximately $148,000 to be transferred to the capital projects fund.
Of that, $113,500 was moved to a new account for fire station construction.
He said optimistically, the village could see construction of a new fire station in 2023 or 2024.
“The more we put away, the less we have to borrow,” Kramer said in regards to a new fire station. “I’m asking us to put $113,500 for what is called seed money.”
Other capital fund additions include $19,000 for fire department equipment replacement, $10,000 for public works equipment replacement and $5,500 for village hall improvements.
Kramer said the undesignated debt service fund balance reserve ended 2019 at roughly $162,000, while at the same time, the village has $6.3 million in general fund debt.
He said the reserve balance could be used to pay off a 2010 general obligation bond and not the general fund levy, which would reduce the amount from the property tax levy needed for the Debt Service Fund in 2021-22.
“You can do this If you want to get levy relief,” Kramer said. “It’s not going to drop the mill rate considerably, or you could transfer that money into the fire station account.”
The board unanimously approved the allocation of the surplus funds, but did not decide what to do in regards to debt service levy relief.
Trustee Tim Carpenter was absent.
“The more we have built up, the less we have to borrow, and the more cushion we have for emergencies like right now,” Kramer said.
The village board passed a new ordinance related to nuisance properties and what law enforcement could do to correct issues that are costing time and resources.
“We do have a few properties that kind of brought this to a head,” said Randy Bani, police chief.
The ordinance states if officers are dispatched to a location three times for nuisance issues, the police department can take necessary steps to remedy the cause of the problem up to eviction.
“I think it provides our citizens with the comfort and protection they’re due, and it gives you what you need,” said Village President Rich Heidel.
The board also approved an ordinance that will allow the village clerk the ability to approve operator’s licenses for serving alcohol.
All the background work will still be conducted, but it allows applicants to get licenses quicker because they will not have to wait for village board approval, said Mary Smith, clerk.
A resolution creating a designation of emergency responder and healthcare provider employees was also approved in response to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Village Attorney Frank Kowalkowski said the definitions used in the act are changing every few days, but this is something most municipalities are acting on.
Smith said Hobart saw nearly 2,300 absentee ballots, up for the average amount of 900 it has seen in past elections.
She said that, along with no contested village races and new voter machines, resulted in the biggest backup at village hall being three people April 7.
“We want to thank the staff for the last couple of weeks with the election with the rules changing hour by hour the past couple of days,” Kramer said. “I’m proud to say we did not receive one complaint from one resident, other than the fact they did not receive their absentee ballots and that is not village related that is post office related.”