Dear Citizens of Belle Plaine
The month of February for the Council, the administrator, the clerks, and the Mayor means budget time. This gets more difficult each year as decisions by the state chip away at some of the funding that cities rely on. The idea that we can simply raise property tax is just not accurate, and money that we collect from utilities cannot support some of the departments that we support out of general fund money.
Every year, the Council takes a serious look at a variety of things to see if we can trim something. Still, as I head off to the second budget meeting of the year, I’m pretty sure the city’s portion of your property tax will not go up. Remember, when you get that new property tax bill, the city is only one of several tax items on it. You need to compare all of them & you also need to see if your property’s value went up.
To be truthful, I also don’t believe we will be raising garbage rates, and they have stayed the same since we signed on with Republic. (Their charges have gone up since that point in time, as agreed to by contract.) Water and sewer could be a different story. That is set by code dealing with the cost of living at the national scale and see where those budgets are projected to be at the end of the year. Water main breaks and sewer problems we plan for, but we can never predict or control those. Plus, snowstorms are budgeted for, but if we budget for five big ones and get seven big ones and ten small ones on weekends, guess what happens to the budget.
(OUT THE WINDOW!)
Another factor that makes budgeting challenging is everyone at the level below the state has to complete their budgets before they know what the state legislature will be doing with taxation. No matter what, it does not make the months of February and March easy months for those involved in government agencies.
If you add in other groups, I work with Benton Landfill, Benton Development, East Central Iowa Council of Gov’ts, Emergency Management, and the 911 Committee. They all have budgets to be developed. You have an idea of why I’m really tired of budget work by the end of March. (I know the clerks and the administrator are even more tired of working on the budget than the Mayor or the Council.)
The general motto at our level is, how do you do more with less?
(The same has been true in education for decades & it looks like it will get even more challenging for the small schools!)
Probably also explains why since I started working with city budgets, I quit balancing my own checkbook, now whenever I drive by an ATM I pull in to do a budget check.
Yes, the Herring Hotel is back in the news. Darren Sellers from Vinton was in attendance at the last council meeting to present a plan for the Herring Hotel restoration. He was joined by representatives from the Lincoln Highway Association and the Benton County Historical Preservation Committee. Sellers agreed to present a written proposal to the City Administrator by January 27. The Council will take that plan under advisement. If you have strong feelings about this situation, please let your council members know. Mr. Sellers was informed that the city will still be applying for a demolition grant, even if they are in discussion with his group over a proposal. The city will not miss the grant deadline this year.
A quick discussion about snow removal as I watch it snow. The city’s top priorities will always be the streets. On snowy days, that means the business district, roads to the school, & streets to get to work + residential. Alleys are about fifth on the list and always have been for decades. We will start removing piles of snow in the business and other areas on day two if possible.
Also, there is no parking on city streets during a snow emergency.
Main Street is off-limits from 2-5 am all the time. (This is especially important during snow removal times, both emergency and non-emergency & during the street cleaning season!)
Another reminder registering golf carts and UTV’s for operation on the streets of Belle Plaine will include proof of insurance. Operation of a non-registered golf cart or UTV will be a code violation subject to a possible fine of $75 first offense and $100 on future offenses. Please get this taken care of before you start to ride your golf cart or UTV around the city. Golf cart registration is an annual item for each owner.
Also, your new pet licenses are due. Unfortunately, with pet licensing, the longer you wait, the more they will cost. Also, remember there are discounts for senior citizens and for pets that are spayed or neutered.
Do not forget to get out and support the local athletes in basketball & wrestling, plus the band & cheer squads that also perform. (I realize the weather has not helped this situation.) Everyone is having a good season. If you wait much longer, they will all be playing sectional, regional, or district tournaments! BRING A MASK!
As Always, “Go Plainsmen.” Remember, it is up to all of us to make Belle Plaine the best hometown in Iowa!
Mayor Dave Fish, February 2021