Budget adjustments spark council discussion

MARSHALL – A discussion of municipal accounting practices took up part of Tuesday’s meeting of the Marshall City Council. While council members did vote 6-1 to approve adjustments to the 2012 city budget, council member Glenn Bayerkohler said he would rather get an auditor’s opinion on whether or not the adjustments were acceptable.

Marshall City Finance Director Tom Meulebroeck presented council members with recommended budget adjustments or reallocations for various city funds, including the general fund, capital projects fund and debt service. Meulebroeck said the adjustments reflected city expenses that weren’t originally in the 2012 budget, like unexpected equipment costs or emergency repairs. Approving the adjustments would lessen variances between the original 2012 budget and actual revenues and expenditures throughout the year, he said.

Bayerkohler said he had some concerns about the city adjusting the 2012 budget after the fact.

“I assume when you approve expenses, they’re already in the budget,” he said. Government shouldn’t spend more than is actually appropriated in the budget, he said.

Council members Mike Boedigheimer and John DeCramer said that Bayerkohler had asked similar questions in the past. They also said the expenses included in the adjustments were all brought before the council for approval last year, and council members were told where the money for individual expenses was coming from.

Bayerkohler said he would like to check with an auditor to see if the city’s method of adjusting the budget was permissible.

“I think certainly it’s something worth looking at,” he said.

Meulebroeck said auditors have not commented on the budget adjustment process in the past 30 years.

Council members voted 6-1 to approve the budget adjustments. Bayerkohler cast the vote against.

A few Marshall residents were present for public hearings on planned street, water and sewer updates. Hearings were held for projects including the construction of Victory Drive near the site of the new amateur sports facility, sewer and water main replacements on Elm Street and North 4th Street, and water main and street reconstruction on Park Avenue and a segment of East College Drive.

Local residents asked questions about the Park Avenue project. Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson said the project would replace sewer and water lines on Park Avenue from Marshall Street to College Drive and replace a water main on College Drive from Walnut Street to east of Park Avenue. Part of the project would move some Park Avenue properties’ utility hookups from lines currently running under a nearby alley, to hookups to the new lines in the street, Olson said. In response to residents’ questions, Olson said sidewalks would be replaced as part of the project.

Council members got a look at one of two new flashing light bars for Marshall Police vehicles. The lights were awarded to the Marshall Police Department as an incentive for officers’ traffic safety efforts with the Toward Zero Deaths program in the past year, said Scott McConkey, the southern Minnesota law enforcement liaison for the Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety.

Marshall Public Safety Director Rob Yant said the vehicle lights were a significant contribution to local law enforcement. Light bars can go for about $3,500 each, he said.

“It’s something we can use and appreciate,” he said.

Council members voted to accept.

Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig gave council members an update on a break-in reported at the Marshall municipal liquor store. Martig said an investigation on the break-in was ongoing. However, he said at this time it doesn’t appear anything was stolen. The liquor store does have an alarm system, Martig said.