McCOOK, Nebraska -- The City of McCook received praise from the accounting firm that performed their annual audit of financial statements, Monday evening, during the McCook City Council's semi-monthly meeting at council chambers. Terry Galloway with Almquist Maltzahn Galloway & Luth of Grand Island, Nebraska, said the city had done an excellent job of holding down spending, budgeting and the way they kept costs down.
During a review of the departmental expenses that compared each of the 15 city departments to a per capita "best practice," Galloway pointed out that all departments had kept expenses under the target. "It is really unusual for a Nebraska city to not see any of them over the best practice amount," said Galloway.
General obligation debt for the city, which includes water and sewer loans, economic development bonds and other items, are at an "outstanding" level according to Galloway. Auditing practices target less than five percent as a good level and less than three percent is categorized as excellent. The city audit showed McCook was at .30 percent, less than one percent.
The audit did show that the city needed to increase unassigned fund balances in the general fund and cash reserves by $3.1 million, in accordance with newly adopted Governmental Accounting Standards Board requirements. Galloway said the additional funds were something that needed to be worked towards and accomplished over time, answering inquiries from City Councilman Bruce McDonald by saying there was no penalty for not hitting the requirements, unless the balances of the fund became negative. City Manager Jeff Hancock added that it could have a negative impact on the city's bond rating.
The audit also recommended consideration of future increases to the water and sewer rates.
Sales tax numbers showed the city had a good retail trade and property tax numbers were less than other communities of similar population, according to Galloway, who added that state funds received was also higher than the per capita best practice. "You're doing a great job at budgeting and giving tax payers property tax relief," said Galloway.
Councilors adopted a new process of introducing and approving ordinances. The new process eliminated unnecessary steps in the introduction of ordinances that had previously created scenarios where councilors were forced to second proposed items or vote for approval of the title of an ordinance, so that they could then vote against the item.
City Councilman Mike Gonzales motioned for an amendment to the process, which was subsequently approved, that added structure to who introduced and read agenda items.
Councilors granted approval to apply for grant funding to update the City Comprehensive Plan. The project was approved for up to $31,000 in city expense, paid out of the council contingency account within the General Fund. The McCook Economic Development Corporation previously identified a grant source that would cover almost half of the estimated $71,000 expense of updating the plan and completing an additional upgraded housing study.
MEDC has also agreed to cover half of the $10,000 housing study expense portion of the project and MEDC Executive Director Rex Nelson told councilors he was excited to be working with the city on the project.
Other items on the consent and regular agenda:
* Councilors went into executive session to discuss a potential real estate purchase for the cation waste disposal system. According to a Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality the report the waste water treatment plant fails to meet toxicity requirements during periods of high flow and the slow rinse cation waste water stream at the waste water treatment plant will be replaced by two new retention lagoons to alleviate this, which will require taking 10 acres of farmland out of production.
* Century Link was granted permission to occupy City of McCook right of way to install underground fiber optic cable along West 10th Street, from West J Street to the cell tower located west of West M Street. According to a representative from the company the project is for a private company and won't effect or enhance overall service in the area.
* Bid specifications for renovations at the Fox Theatre were approved. The total renovation project is estimated to cost more than $300,000 and has received a $252,000 grant to assist with the expense. The project includes renovations to the lobby, restrooms, ticket booth, stage and seating areas, in addition to electrical, heating and other improvements.
* MO Dough LLC was approved for a special liquor license for a bull riding event at Kiplinger Arena, April 13 and 14.