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Tioga budget trims out developer’s job

 

Posted 10/13/15 (Tue)

By Kevin Killough
The city has cut down expenditures in some departments and increased some others in its 2016 budget. 
In the course of cutting expenditures, the city eliminated the economic development director department.  
“What we’re doing is leaning down a bit,” Mayor Drake McClelland said.
Melissa Koch had held the position since Jan. 2014. Last  summer she requested part-time work while pursuing more education towards professional development for her position. 
City Auditor Abby Salinas said the city developed its budget this year with concerns over the city’s shrinking population and uncertainty of future oil income.
Salinas said the commission decided to keep the economic development position part-time and fund it as part of the auditor’s department. The position’s duties were also redefined to include support for the auditor’s department. 
She said towns of similar size often do not have a full-time position or they share a position with neighboring communities.
“We’re trying to look at what’s going to work for Tioga,” Salinas said. 
McClelland said the city offered to keep Koch in the part-time position, but she declined. 
Big impact
The decision is not sitting well with Chris Norgaard, president of the Tioga Economic Development Corporation. 
The decision “is going to have a big impact on the whole town and not just our group,” Norgaard said.
Norgaard said Tioga had a full-time economic development professional, even when the population was half the current size. The city funded half of it, and the EDC picked up the other half with funding from the Tioga Fund. 
Last December, the city renamed the position and funded it entirely through the city’s general fund expenditures. At the time, Koch said the restructuring was to accommodate future expansions of the department. 
Norgaard said the EDC is now going to have trouble moving forward its initiatives, including developing the downtown lots and establishing a Renaissance Zone downtown. The zone provides tax incentives to businesses within its designated boundaries to encourage property improvements. Norgaard said the elimination of a full-time person to handle the administration of the program leaves its future uncertain.
“I’m not sure what we’re going to do to be honest,” he said. 
Norgaard also criticized what he said is irresponsible spending, such as the unused standpipe on ND 40. 
“They don’t have any foresight . . . I don’t think any of them have ever run a business before,” Norgaard said. 
Budget highlights
The economic development department spent $3,505 in 2014. Its 2015 estimated expenditures grew to $71,171. 
The budget for the auditor’s department was also cut from $301,477 in 2015 to $201,086 requested for 2016. The department spent $213,139 in 2014. 
The police department, which has the largest budget in the city, was cut from $1,065,704 to $957,140. The department spent $644,128 in 2014. 
Costs to the city from the general fund for full-time employees in the police department were cut from $581,282 in 2015 to $392,508 requested for next year. 
The planning and zoning department is requesting $206,256 for next year, up from $100,326 in estimated expenditures in 2015. The department spent $83,904 in 2014. 
The city attorney department was also increased from $12,000 estimated expenditures in 2015 to $50,000 requested for next year. Its 2015 budget was practically the same as the previous year. 
The city is budgeting $1,863,229 for 2016, down from $2,695,892 in 2015.