Council ups funding for animal shelter

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

McCOOK, Neb. -- The McCook City Council will likely increase its annual financial commitment to the McCook Humane Society in response to rising expenses at the operation. Representatives from the animal shelter attended Monday's regularly scheduled meeting and said utilities had increased higher than the funding the city provided for them, primarily related to their electricity bill and in part due to the space they provided for the police department to house stray dogs and cats.

The shelter requested a $3,820 increase annually.

City Council indicated they would likely round the increase up to $4,000 and instructed city staff to bring the item back for formal approval during the second reading of the city budget on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014.

The increase will raise the annual McCook Humane Society funding commitment from the City of McCook to $48,000.

Also during Monday's meeting, City Council coordinated the annual public hearing to hear support, opposition, criticism, suggestions or observations pertaining to the city budget. The hearing took place without comment from the public or City Council members. The 2014-15 city budget and employee pay plan were subsequently approved on the first of three required readings.

City Council indicated it would likely announce any amendments to the $179,765 in uncommitted sales tax funds or other changes to the budget during the second reading of the budget.

General Fund expenses are budgeted to decrease when compared to the 2013-14 fiscal year budget. The city budgeted $6,947,004 in General Fund expenses in 2013-14 and is budgeting $6,753,577 in expenses for 2014-15.

General Fund revenue was budgeted at $7,167,381 in 2013-14 and is budgeted for 2014-15 at $6,847,687.

An increase to commercial and residential trash collection rates was also approved on its first of three readings. The increase in anticipated to result in a combined $103,000 in additional revenue for the Sewer Enterprise Fund.

The fee for residential trash collection will increase from $19 to $21.50 per month. The increase is broken down into an added $1 for recycling fees and a $1.50 increase for collection and disposal.

City of McCook trash collection fees were most recently increased in 2013 from $18.50 to $19 per month.

Commercial waste will increase from $57.50 per ton to $60 per ton, which was similarly increased last in 2013 by 50 cents per ton.

The Fiscal Year Employee Classification Pay Plan also received first round approval. City employees and the police department are budgeted for a 2 percent across the board "cost-of-living" increase, in addition to a 2.5 percent merit increase City Clerk Lea Ann Doak said she budgeted for each employee to receive on their anniversary date.

The annual cost-of-living and merit increases approved for city employees are in addition to a one percent longevity increase city employees receive every five years.

Fire department employees are budgeted for a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase, per their previously negotiated union contract.

Other items on Monday's consent and regular agenda:

* An application for the City of McCook to serve as a sponsoring entity for Dashabout Roadrunner, the intercity bus service provides transport between McCook and Hastings, Grand Island, Columbus, Nebraska City, Valentine and Scottsbluff, was approved without comment. The shuttle service is requesting $328,153 in assistance, split evenly between state and federal funds, broken down to a subsidy rate of 64 cents per mile. Dashabout operates 310 days a year, traveling 1654 route miles each day, according to the application.

* The annual 1 percent increase to the Restricted Funds Limit for Unused Restricted Funds Authority was approved. Restricted funds include property tax, payments in Lieu of property tax, local option sales tax, motor vehicle tax, state aid, surplus fees and unspent prior years capital improvements.

* The 2014-15 property tax request for the city was approved to be set at the same .319044 that it has since 2002.

* City staff was authorized to amend its agreement with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission allowing for a time extension for construction of the next phase of the city walking trail. The amendment requests to extend construction activity from Aug. 1, 2014, to Nov. 30, 2014. The item was approved as part of the consent agenda without comment and no details pertaining to why the project has been delayed were included in the meeting agenda.

* The Nebraska Arborist Association was authorized to close the southbound lane of Norris Avenue, between G Street and H Street, from 2-4 p.m. on Thursday Sept. 4, 2014, for a Western Field Day. The group plans a climbing/dead wood removal exercise at the Norris Home as part of the event and indicated in a request the road closure would be both for additional parking and traffic safety.

* The McCook Area Chamber of Commerce was granted a special liquor license for a business after hours meeting at McCook National Bank on Sept. 24, 2014.

* Loop Brewing Co. was granted a special liquor license for a reception at the Red Willow County Community Building on Sept. 3, 2014.

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