The Minot Park Board passed the 2010 budget on first reading Tuesday night during an open public hearing held just before the regularly scheduled park board meeting.
The 2010 budget for the Minot Park District is $5,617,073, which includes special assessments. The taxes payable to the park district on a home valued at $100,000 in the new budget would be $139.28. Although the 2010 budget is larger than in 2009, the payable taxes actually went down. For 2009, payable taxes were $147.51, which would be $8.23 more than in 2010.
A point of contention that dominated much of the budget discussion was a contribution to the City of Minot pension plan. None of the commissioners were necessarily against the contribution, which would be $30,000, but all of them agreed they didn't have enough information to make an informed choice as to whether the contribution should be made or not. A short, highly technical explanation of the pension contribution was submitted to the park board by the city, but none of the commissioners could decipher what it said. Cindy Hemphill, finance director for the City of Minot, was willing to appear before the park board to answer any questions they might have, but she was unable to attend the meeting.
"I'm more than happy to budget this amount, but ... I don't want to spend it until I understand it, and unfortunately that isn't the case now," said Commissioner Ron Bieri.
Commissioner Robert Petry was concerned that if they ended up not contributing to the pension plan, the park district would lose $30,000 from the budget. He floated the idea of transferring the money to a general fund in the budget so it could still be used in case the park board didn't put it towards the pension plan. Ron Merritt, director of parks, wasn't sure if that was a legal maneuver, and said he would have to look into the North Dakota Century Code to be sure.
Petry ended up dropping the idea without making a motion, agreeing the budget could be amended on second reading, but he reiterated that answers needed to be found on the reasons the pension contribution was needed.
The first reading of the 2010 budget passed by a vote of 4-1, with Robert Walstad, board president, voting no.
A second and final reading for the budget must be held before Oct. 7, and the board set up the final reading during the golf committee meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 6, at noon in the Municipal Courtroom of Minot Municipal Auditorium.
The board will also invite Hemphill to the meeting to go over the pension contribution, but in the event she can't make it, Walstad, who has extensive financial experience, and Merritt will look into the issue more thoroughly and report back to the board on their findings.
Another issue that got the board into a lively discussion was hiring a consultant to provide a report for Souris Valley Golf Course. A consultant is already looking at Minot Country Club, and Commissioner Cliff Hovda said it would make sense to hire him to take a look at Souris Valley as long as he's in Minot.
The cost would be approximately $5,000 - $2.500 for the report and $2,500 for shared travel expenses with Minot Country Club.
Bieri said the consultant is a seasoned veteran who has seen a multitude of golf courses and would provide a fresh look at Souris Valley. Commissioner Robert Petry responded the consultant is only one set of eyes, and he favored setting up a citizen's committee that would have local golfers take a hard look at Souris Valley so multiple viewpoints could be heard.
Commissioner Connie Feist noted there already is a very vocal group of local golfers who aren't afraid to make their opinions known to board members, but she agreed with Petry that hiring the consultant wasn't necessary.
The final vote was close, and passed 3-2, with Petry and Feist voting "no."
In other business:
- A park shelter rental policy was passed. Small shelter rentals will cost $5 per picnic table for anything over 15 tables, while large shelter rentals will cost $5 per table for anything over 30 tables. Any garbage cans requested above and beyond what's normally at a shelter will be an extra $1 apiece.
- A bid of $16,198 was accepted from Westlie Motor Co. for a new pickup truck for the horticulture department, with an extra $450 budgeted for a spray-on bed liner.
- A bid of $10,034.50 was accepted from Don Bessette Motors for a 2008 car to replace a 2007 Chevrolet Malibu in the maintenance department that was totaled in a recent vandalism incident.
- Authorization to finance a new Zamboni ice resurfacing machine for Maysa Arena was approved. The Zamboni costs $99,986.83, while $36,000 in budget and Foundation money will bring the total amount to be financed down to $63,986.83.
- Supporters of a new bike park to complement the skate park in Roosevelt Park also made their opinions known at the meeting. Commissioners seemed eager to work with the youth and adults on either adding onto the current skate park or building a separate bike park, but cautioned that new projects are measured in years from beginning to completion.