Fireworks part of New Ulm budget

NEW ULM – The City of New Ulm will be funding fireworks in 2014, thanks to changes approved in the city’s preliminary budget next year.

At its first Truth in Taxation budget hearing Tuesday night, the City Council approved the idea of allocating $15,000 for a fireworks display at a September festival, similar to the one held last September near the Hermann Monument.

Councilor Les Schultz, who has been talking with organizers of the festival on the Hermann Monument Committee, said the organizers tell him that if they can make this an annual event, within five years they may be able to pay for the fireworks show with the revenues from food vendors and other sources.

The fireworks were part of a reallocation of about $87,050 originally budgeted for health insurance increases in September. The city, not knowing what the final increase would be, budgeted for a 30 percent increase. Instead, the increase came in at 27 percent, freeing up the $87,000 for other uses. Using the $87,050 to reduce the tax levy to about 1.5 percent instead of the 3 percent increase budgeted, according to City Manager Brian Gramentz.

But reallocating it would allow the city to fund other needs without increasing the levy over what was approved in the city’s preliminary budget in September.

Councilors agreed that $12,500 should be used to recodify the city’s code book and ordinances. This process involves reprinting the city’s code book and ordinances to reflect all the changes made since the last recodification 10 years ago, making it a current document.

City staff also recommended dedicating $15,000 to the festivals account for the fireworks, and using the remaining $59,550 to reduce the city’s use of bonding for street repairs done by the Street Department.

Gramentz recommended increasing the city’s allocation to the New Ulm Economic Development Commission by $4,785, which would bring the city’s total allocation to $50,000, the maximum allowable by the state. Gramentz said that this move would eliminate the discussions and lobbying from the EDC for funding every year.

Schultz then mentioned dedicating $10,000 to the New Ulm Retail Development Corporation as well, which had been cut back in previous years. The $10,000 would be taken from the street repair allocation. Schultz said this position is intended to bring more businesses to the community, but the person in the position has to spend time on raising funds for the program instead of development work.

“If we’re talking about restoring funding, then we should also consider restoring funding for other groups like the New Ulm Battery and the Municipal Band which were cut when money was tight,” said Councilor Ruth Ann Webster.

After a discussion of what groups had been cut, the council agreed on restoring the Concord Singers’ allocation to $5,000, bringing the Municipal Band back to $15,000 from $11,000, and bringing the Battery’s funding to $17,000.

Gramentz figured it would take about $20,450 to restore these groups to their pre-cut levels and increase the Retail Development Allocation to $42,000. This would leave $39,000 or so for reducing street repair bonding.

The changes discussed would not raise the budget’s expenditure and revenue totals of $21,122,790.

The council will hold another budget hearing Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 6 p.m. to follow up on the changes approved at Tuesday’s hearing and consider the final budget.

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