Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, May 10, 1999

Auditor says HL city still needs to trim budget

By Andrea Vargo

The city's ambulance fund needs to show more complete records, an auditor told the Howard Lake City Council Tuesday.

Although everything is in order, and the bottom line will not change, the ambulance records should show uncollectible accounts as bad debt, said Matt Mayer of Kern, DeWinter,Vere. Ltd.

At present, these accounts don't show up at all on the statement, he noted.

Mayer also explained to the council that city expenditures have exceeded revenues in each of the last five years.

In 1998, expenditures exceeded revenues by over $62,000.

Mayer said his firm recommends the council continue to look for opportunities in the budgeting process to keep expenditures in line with revenues.

He said that the liquor store had its most profitable year in the last five years.

It transferred $85,000 to the general fund to help with the city's day-to-day operations.

The sewer and water fund has posted consistent operating losses for several years, but in 1998, it showed its first income, $46,773.

Stated Mayer, "It is important for this trend to continue in order for the fund to assist in servicing the debt on several related bond issues.

The accounting firm recommended the city prepare budgets for all its special revenue funds in order to track the performance of those funds. That would include fire, fire equipment, ambulance service, Tax Increment District No. 2, and the Voyageur Revolving Loan Fund.

Timely reports

City Administrator Christina Frankenfield requested more timely reports from all departments in order to place them in the city council packets.

In order for her to have the reports in the packets for all those who are required to get them, Frankenfield said she needs them by mid-week before the council meeting.

The council appeared surprised and concerned that 11 packets are distributed before the meetings to council members, as well as the press and others who have gone through the process to request it.

This has been standard practice for many years.

Councilmembers Tom Kutz and Shelly Reddemann expressed dismay that the public could see any of this information before a council meeting.

Frankenfield tried in vain to stress these are public records once they are given to the council, and have to be available to the public upon request and at the meetings.

"It's the law," she said.

Said Reddemann, "I don't think the public should have that information before the council has a chance to look it over."

Kutz requested City Attorney Charles Paschke look into the law.

Metro phone lines

Mary Gallagher told the council the work to get metro phone lines in Howard Lake is taking longer than planned.

This is due to the large number of cities requesting metro lines.

"There are 30 communities ahead of us at this time," she said.

Gallagher stated the original time frame was 18 to 24 months, but now it appears that two years may be a conservative estimate.

The Public Utilities Commission received a traffic study and report April 19.

"Most calls are to Buffalo," she told the council.

The commission will study the information to see if a change to metro lines is warranted. If it is, a cost study needs to be done by eight different carriers in the area, and that will take about six months, she said.

A cost rate will be developed for Howard Lake, and will probably be comparable to the ones for Waverly and Montrose.

Gallagher said the last step requires information and ballots to be sent to residents, who will vote the metro lines in or out.

She stated that it would be good for someone to attend one of the council meetings to answer questions from the council and residents.

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