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NY Mills mayor notes positive financial news in State of the City address

In his annual State of the City address delivered last week at the New York Mills Civic & Commerce Association annual banquet, Mayor Larry Hodgson provided a snapshot of New York Mills, 2009.

Hodgson opened his speech by recognizing long-time city employee Roger Salo, who was appointed to replace Allan Holtberg as City Utilities Director. Holtberg retired in 2009 after 13 years leading the city crew.

"Roger has been with the city's public works department for over 30 years and in reviewing his qualifications, his dependability, and his dedication to his department this promotion was more than justified," Hodgson said.

The mayor noted 2009 as a special year for the community, with New York Mills celebrating its 125th anniversary.

"Looking back at the events of this past summer that were part of our celebration, there surely will be that one event that you probably remember the most," Hodgson said in addressing the C&C members. "Whether it was the parade, The Lund Mania Fishing Tournament, the "Remembering the Past" program at the James Mann Performing Arts Center, the baseball game, or the Sunday picnic, we have to remember that it takes a lot of people with commitment to carry out an event like this. And that is what our C&C is all about; people dedicated to insuring that the city of New York Mills continues to grow and prosper. My thanks go out to you for being part of that organization."

Hodgson addressed the city's financial situation and called 2009 one of the city's better years when you look at their financial reports.

In setting the budget for the year, Hodgson said the city estimated that General Fund revenues would be approximately $932,000; when in actuality they were $958,000. Expenditures were estimated at $880,000 but turned out to be only $845,000. As a result, the city's General Fund cash balance increased by $111,000 from the previous year.

"That was a significant improvement," Hodgson stated.

Knowing that the state Local Government Aid would be decreased again in 2009 the NYM City Council worked very aggressively in anticipation of the shortfall.

"We initiated new revenues in the form of franchise fees that are applied to the operation of the swimming pool. Those fees brought in over $3,800 in eight months, and are expected to amount to close to $7,200 in 2010," Hodgson said. "Insurance dividend payments were much higher than anticipated. Interest earnings increased from the previous year. Police state aid was up significantly."

Hodgson also noted the state provided the city with somewhat of a break when the budgeted forecast of LGA funding only dropped by approximately $24,000 rather than the anticipated $37,000.

"These examples and several others put more money into the financial formula," according to Hodgson.

On the expenditure side of the equation the council took steps to reduce costs by doing things like adjusting pool operations.

"We closed the airport. We cut summer-time help significantly, and we got a handle on excessive overtime costs. We cut police call time and eliminated free snow removal and sidewalk cleaning. We enacted a wage freeze for all city employees," Hodgson stated in his address. "Some of these adjustments were difficult to make as they affected many, but the council had no option if we were to continue necessary operations and not impose a significant tax levy increase."

As it was, the council voted to adopt a tax levy increase that showed a 3 percent increase over the previous year. According to Hodgson, this percentage of increase was a result of the necessity to stay current on bond fund payments rather than a need for additional operational expenditures.

"Some people were under the assumption that our tax levy increase was the result of the 2009 Street Improvement Project, but that also was not the case," Hodgson explained. "No part of the levy increase resulted from that project. We were extremely fortunate to have received a stimulus money grant in the amount of approximately $857,000 from the federal government. That covered the city's costs associated with that project, thereby eliminating a need for an additional levy increase."

Hodgson did discuss a present area of concern for the city in housing. New York Mills is not experiencing a shortage of housing, but rather, an excess of housing.

"Probably the biggest sign of the economic downturn for our city is in the number of homes throughout the city that are currently for sale. And the number of rental units that are available for rent," he said.

Currently, there are approximately 29 homes that are listed as "For Sale," and five of those homes are the result of foreclosures.

"When checking the local newspapers there seems to be no shortage of apartments for rent, when only a couple of years ago we were at almost 100 percent occupancy," Hodgson stated. "Several years ago our city invested heavily in developing Country View Estates and saw a surprising number of those lots sell almost immediately, but since 2007 we have not sold a single lot."

Today, there are 23 of those lots still listed for sale. They are available for qualified buyers for as little as $2,900 plus assessments.

Hodgson commented to help alleviate this housing problem the city needs to do something to attract more people to New York Mills.

One positive is Lund Boat Co. just recently announced the company is adding an additional 15 workers to its increasing work force, and Lund is gradually seeing an improvement in sales in the boating industry.

"Hopefully this trend will continue, and as a result, bring additional families into the community," Hodgson said. "But that is not all that needs to be done. We have to somehow let people know that New York Mills is where they should look to settle their families. Each of you, as business owners, needs to do that one special thing that promotes your business. We need to show prospective homeowners that they will be appreciated here in New York Mills."

Despite the difficult economic trend Hodgson pointed out, the city is fortunate to welcome three new businesses into New York Mills, and the relocation of one business into a beautiful new facility.

The new businesses are Tender Hearts Home Care, owned by Steve & Carrie Steinbach; Home Sweet Home, owned by Brent & Missy Steinbach; The Cat's Pajamas, owned by Brenda Scheidecker; and the relocation into a new building of Headquarters Salon, owned by Brian & Lisa Alberts.