At the Mayor and City Administrator’s press conference Wednesday, discussion included School District parking concerns, the City budget, Second Street corridor, HSA’s, and ethics involving public officials overseeing conversations that involve their employer.
WATCH the full press conference here:
At Monday’s meeting of the Council, members reviewed Resolution No. 2018-58: CUP for site plan review/approval of new athletic facilities at various locations (Marshfield School District).
“It was an interesting discussion,” said Mayor Bob McManus about the Common Council’s discussion on Tuesday regarding School District parking. “There was a time where I did have to ask Ron [Sturomski, Building and Grounds Director at Marshfield School District] for his patience. I don’t think they are aware of the sensitivity that the Council has gone through with the whole 8th and Hemlock situation over there. What we were actually talking about is the baseball field over by the high school, but the sensitivity is still there – is there going to be enough parking?”
McManus explained how the City was following rules, but understood why the District was frustrated.
“We are working very hard to establish a good relationship,” said McManus.
A Conditional Use Permit was ultimately approved 6-4 by Council at the meeting.
The Mayor McManus and Administrator Barg also addressed questions about the 2019 Proposed City Budget.
WATCH that portion here:
“It’s very hard to put the budget together,” said McManus. “Originally there was authorization to increase taxes up to 4.5%. It was never intended to go that high, it was a parameter, but it gave some flexibility as to what to do.”
“In the last ten days when it was just about ready to be printed, we had a couple of surprises,” he added. “One was the reduction of $94,000 in state aid and this is a running 6-year cycle that they do.”
Another challenge was the reduction in the personal property tax the City would be receiving from the state. McManus emphasized that the City does not want to reduce spending in road repair and explained the implications of the proposed tax increase.
“On a $100,000 home their taxes would go from 920 to 938. Effectively, it’s 9.38 per thousand,” said McManus, reiterating Barg’s comparison from the meeting of comparable neighboring communities. “We are still substantially lower than everybody else.”
In a positive surprise twist, McManus and Barg explained that the City will actually be receiving $218,000 back as a result of 2017 ACT 59, an offset of lost revenue.
With this new information, McManus explained that the City now has three options:
1. Take that $218,000 and re-fund some of the proposed cuts
2. Take the $218,000 and put into a reserve account
3. No tax increase
“For me, it doesn’t make any sense to raise the tax rate,” said McManus. “If we could come out of this without a tax rate increase, that would be great. But, all of these options are good.”
Barg added that is could be a mix and match of those three options.
At Monday’s Council meeting, members discussed a request to approve a City contribution of $600 single/$1200 family toward employee HSA accounts for 2019.
HSA’s (Health Savings Accounts) for the City of Marshfield are held by Forward Financial Bank, where Mayor McManus is employed as a mortgage lender.
Under Wisconsin State Statute 19.46, Public Officials must not engage in a discussion where there is a conflict of interest.
The statute states:
Except in accordance with the commission’s advice under sub. (2) and except as otherwise provided in sub. (3), no state public official may:
(a) Take any official action substantially affecting a matter in which the official, a member of his or her immediate family, or an organization with which the official is associated has a substantial financial interest.
(b) Use his or her office or position in a way that produces or assists in the production of a substantial benefit, direct or indirect, for the official, one or more members of the official’s immediate family either separately or together, or an organization with which the official is associated.
When asked about the ethics of his chairing a discussion on HSA’s, which essentially benefits his employer, McManus was not concerned about there being a conflict of interest because this action was regarding a renewal.
“That took place long before I was mayor. That was the way the City has that established,” said McManus. “Chairing it, I didn’t see any conflict of interest because it was already taking place.”
“For the record, at the time we did set up this arrangement a few years ago, we did look at all financial institutions in town to see what they could offer in terms of offering those accounts,” added Barg.
According to Barg, these are the only City accounts held by Forward Bank.
“We have a lot of money to manage and that’s a good thing for a bank,” Barg said. “Other than that, I’m not aware of any specific monies or accounts that are managed or used with Forward Bank, unless I’m forgetting something.”
Extrapolating on the HSA discussion, Barg explained the challenges facing the City in terms of Health Insurance.
“We’ve been doing everything we can to encourage better consumerism,” he said.
WATCH that portion of the discussion here: