2019 budget approved, 3-1 in first reading

By Carol Walker


After several budget meetings in July, the Hill City Council was presented with the first reading of the 2019 Budget Appropriation document on Monday night. Discussion ensued regarding a few items written into the budget as well as a comparison with the 2018 budget.

Brett McMacken, city administrator, talked about a couple Departmental Capital Improvement Requests, the “wish list”. One of them being the vacuum truck which would cost about $80,000, half of it coming from the Sewer Fund and half from the General Fund under the category of highways and streets. The other item was a sewer main camera costing $65,000, the cost also coming from both the sewer and highway and street fund.

Alderman Jim Peterson was concerned about spending that much money. He thought it would be better to outsource the use of a vacuum truck and the camera. McMacken commented that their sources in Rapid City are not entirely reliable and are difficult to reach by phone.

McMacken presented an alternative of a used 1991 vacuum truck, which could be purchased from Custer at a cost of $25,000 and appeared to be in good shape. He researched the value of the truck and saw that a similar vintage truck in comparable condition was priced at $29,000.

Peterson was also concerned about the automatic three percent increase, across the board, in city employees’ salaries each year.

“It appears to me that there is a 16 percent increase overall in the budget from last year to this year. I don’t see this as a sustainable thing,” said Peterson.

Both McMacken and City Finance Officer Carla Sheldon said they don’t believe the increase was that much. One of the things McMacken said ould skew the budget is the money allotted f or the BID project.

“We have an emergency fund of approximately $750,000, and $175,000 will be transferred into the city budget to allow for expenditures for the project. That will be paid off in five years at a two percent interest rate. There will be an annual payment from the BID to the city of $37,000,” said McMacken.

The money for those payments will come from the $2 “pillow tax” at each of the motels in Hill City. In June, $17,800, was collected from the lodging establishments with more projected for collection in July and August.

Another big item on the budget is for the Major Lake Bridge replacement with $120,000 coming from Highways and Streets, and $100,000 out of the Sewer Fund.  McMacken said he would be glad to go over anything  in the budget with any alderman or woman who would like to come in to talk to him or Sheldon. He said he would rather deal with any issues now before the second reading of the budget in two weeks. The city must submit the budget to the state in September.

Regarding the annual three percent increase for salaries or wages, there is a suggestion on the board for a step-increase program and a performance evaluation that could be implemented instead of the automatic increase. The budget could be approved as is, a new-system could be put in place before 2019 and the budget amended.

A motion was made to approve the first reading of the budget with John Johnson, Kathy Skorzewski and Jason Gillaspie voting yes and Peterson voting no.

The council also approved the second reading of the Ordinance Amending Title Nine: Zoning & Subdivision Regulations, Section 602.2 Architecture. This ordinance states that, “All new construction and exterior renovations of existing buildings, requiring a building permit, within the Commercial (C) zones, Commercial/Residential (CR) zone and Central Business District (CB) zone must adhere to the Hill City Design Guidelines established by resolution and adopted by the Common Council.”

The Hill City Planning and Zoning Commission worked on this change since December 2017, narrowing the styles down to eight different ones that fit the town.

“Dani (Schade) and the P&Z have done a great job of outreach to the community to gain input on the architectural styles,” said McMacken.

McMacken said the public works dept. has been working to repair property in Allen Gulch overrun by water due to heavy rains this year. Old clay/tile pipes have allowed for infiltration of waters into the sewer system. This has been part of the cause of the emergency basin being full at the Sewage Treatment Plant.

“We have had complaints about the smell. We have purchased chemicals to deal with this. On hot days the smell is worse,” said McMacken.

In other business, the council approved a variance request for a carport on Pine Ave., the propane contract with McGas Propane and a request for a spectrophotometer for the wastewater treatment plant. Also, Sheldon promoted the Municipal League Conference scheduled for Oct. 2-5 which would include workshops, vendors and time to chat with officials from other towns in South Dakota.

In her report on the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce, Director Janet Wetovick-Bily encouraged the mayor and council to “Dream Big.” She pointed out a headline and article from the Rapid City Journal, which spoke of an idea to install a Ferris wheel and promenade across Omaha in Rapid City.

Wetovick-Bily said chambers in the southern Hills are working together to do as much as they can to encourage tourists to come to our area.

“Our biggest goal is to get visitors here. Because of that we want to revise the Southern Hills Vacation Guide,” she said.

She went on to say there was a slow start to the season this year, but things have really picked up, and they hope to finish strong. They had about 100 people a day into the Visitor Information Center, with a dip during the Rally, but Monday it was up to 92 again.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 27, at 5:30 p.m. at city hall.