Monday, November 19, 2012
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Regional planning commission sets budget

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[November 19, 2012]  The Logan County Regional Planning Commission met Nov. 7 for its regularly scheduled session. The discussion primarily revolved around the planning commission's budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Before discussing the budget, zoning director Will D'Andrea reported that he and county engineer Bret Aukamp ware set to meet with the Farnsworth Group on Nov. 14 to go over the initial draft of the bicycle trail plan.

Farnsworth is the organization that will be working with the county to design a potential countywide series of connecting bicycle trails. In September, Farnsworth Group and the county invited members of the public to attend a hearing and give suggestions for what they would like to see happen with this plan.

The first item brought up concerning the budget was a desire to see the paperwork expanded upon. Commission member Derrick Crane commented that he would like to see the budget include figures from previous years in order for members and the public to make comparisons in the spending and revenue.

Crane also said there were a few line items in the budget that did not have figures to go with them for next year, and so those line items may need to be examined to determine necessity. Crane also wanted to see the revenue from grants added to the list on the revenue side of the budget. In other words, the commission needs to add a few lines, take away a few lines and add a more visible trail of expenditures.

"It (the budget) just needs a little bit of cleaning up," said Crane.

The total revenue shown in the budget draft is $36,750. This figure does not include leftover grant money from prior years, as stated by Crane earlier, nor does it reflect money sitting in reserve that the commission has access to if necessary.

One of the adjustments the planning commission will be making to the budget is an increase in the line item for conferences. As it was presented in the draft, the budget would have allowed for $200 in conference expenses for the year. While this sounds like a very low number, the number of conferences for zoning and planning is also very low.

Several of the commission members expressed a desire to see that number increased to $500. This provides a cushion of finances, in case something comes to the commission's attention on short notice. A unanimous decision was made to approve that adjustment.

In the initial draft of expenses, the line item for secretaries or interns was left blank. The question was raised by Crane as to whether or not the commission would like to hire someone to type out meeting minutes. As it stands, chairman Bill Graff types out the meeting minutes. While the commission members present were not unhappy with Graff's notations, a secretary could be brought in for a reasonable cost.

"I'm more than willing if we can find somebody for a reasonable price," said Graff.

Commission members made a few suggestions as to who could be hired. A budget adjustment of $600 was made for a yearly expense to pay this secretary when hired.

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A $5,000 adjustment was made to the legal fees line item under expenses. While the commission is not expecting to require that much money in that area in the upcoming year, precautionary measures are being taken. Previous years have seen expenditures under that figure. The commission decided that $5,000 would be a good starting point.

The final line item to be adjusted was the line item for planning. This would be the item containing figures for actual planning projects and outside expenditures related to those projects. Graff suggested that $10,000 would be a good place to start. However, that would result in a displayed budget with over-expenditures.

Keith Snyder, Lincoln mayor and member of the planning commission, did the math, and with the adjustments made so far, the commission would be spending $32,711, leaving $4,039.

But, as member Blair Hoerbert pointed out, the budget does not show a beginning balance; it only shows expenditures and revenues. To the eyes of someone who is not privy to this information, it looks like the commission is spending more than they have.

As Crane asked, the question remains: Does the commission post a balanced budget, leaving out the reserve figures, or post an unbalanced budget with the knowledge that other funds are available?

Hoerbert said he would like to see the budget include a beginning fund balance on paper, so people know the commission is not planning on spending more than they actually have access to. He also suggested that a footnote at the end of the budget could be used to explain the figures.

After the discussion, a starting figure was placed at $10,000 for the planning tem. However, since the commission does not know exactly what the beginning reserve will be for the fiscal year, the budget will appear to be out of balance.

"I think that shows a positive move on our part as a commission. In previous years, we really didn't have anything there," said Crane.

Finally, the commission also decided that as part of their efforts to better illustrate their financial capabilities, a monthly budget report will be submitted to the county and the city of Lincoln in order to show a progression of revenue and expenditures.

After the adjustments were made, a vote was taken and the budget was adopted by the planning commission.

Members present were zoning director Will D'Andrea, chairman Bill Graff, Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder, county engineer Bret Aukamp, Blair Hoerbert, Bill Martin, Fred Finchum and Derrick Crane.


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