Stanton considers cash concern in hiring exclusive city manager

By Meghan Nelson • Last Updated 3:02 pm on Friday, November 25, 2016

During Tuesday night’s Stanton City Commission meeting, from left, commissioners John Seaman and Krista Johnson, Treasurer Janet Davis and Mayor Pro-Tem Ken Burris discussed the cost and budget concerns of hiring a city manager exclusive to Stanton. — Daily News/Meghan Nelson

STANTON — Commissioner Karl Yoder asked the Stanton City Commissioners to continue discussing hiring a city manager at every meeting until the position is filled.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, talk revolved around the question of costs and options. The discussion follows a Nov. 15 meeting when the commission decided to look into hiring an exclusive city manager and ending a shared agreement with Lakeview.

The Lakeview Village Council voted Monday night to hire Shay Gallagher as a full-time village manager for Lakeview. The Lakeview Village Council also voted to end the shared manager agreement with Stanton in light of Stanton’s decision to do the same.

On Tuesday, Stanton Treasurer Janet Davis estimated the cost of hiring a full-time city manager with benefits would cost about $88,240 per year. A part-time city manager without benefits would cost about $43,000 a year.

The shared manager position was originally advertised between $63,000 to $68,000 per year, including benefits, to be paid between the Lakeview and Stanton.

Hiring an exclusive city manager means Stanton must find room in the budget to accommodate the costs.

Stanton received a positive audit report on Oct. 25 and has $715,594 in its general fund, but the audit was not problem-free.

Yoder pointed out that even though the auditor said money wasn’t transferred in from other funds to make the budget look balanced, that is exactly what had happened.

Davis said amounts transferred from the general fund to cover expenditures were $41,071 for 2016 and about $165,000 is being transferred in from the general fund for 2017.

“That cannot continue,” Yoder said. “This impacts what we can do as far as city manager.

Burris noted the city had been using money in the general fund for the last few years — about $500,000, he estimated.

“We’re heading down the same trail as the (Montcalm) county,” said Commissioner Ken Burris, who acted as mayor at Tuesday’s meeting due to Mayor Larry Petersen’s absence. “We approved (the budget) not understanding everything.”

Commissioners thought part of the discrepancy in the budget was because of money being set aside to match park grants that previous city managers had gone after.

“I think what (former city manager) Jake (Ekholm) projected for this year’s budget was in preparation … to get projects ready for the park,” Yoder said. “Jake was under that impression we didn’t need that much in the general fund. Generally, accepted accounting principles say you only need a certain percentage in the general fund to cover possible expenditures.”

Yoder added that Stanton currently has a good fund balance, but city officials cannot continue to withdraw from it.

With all the questions and concerns, the commission decided to schedule a study session to explore ideas for hiring a city manager.

“In a week’s time, we found some information that (an exclusive manager) may not be an option,” Commissioner Jane Basom said. “I think (a study session) is the environment to toss around our ideas and toss around our realistic options.”

The study session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 13, before the regular city commission meeting. The public may attend.

A commission seat remains vacant after Lewis Corwin resigned Nov. 15 as a result of that night’s city commission meeting.

“I enjoyed my tenure while I was there, but the last council meeting was embarrassing and very unprofessional,” Corwin wrote in his resignation letter. “I wish the city of Stanton the very best.”

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