The city of Superior has a plan for operations and projects in 2021.
The Superior City Council adopted three budgets Tuesday, Sept. 22 to manage city services, invest in infrastructure and strengthen the city’s financial position using surplus revenue from 2019.
The nearly $31.5 million general fund budget will add a social worker and increase funding for training in the Superior Police Department; increase funding for mass transit; launch broader snow removal efforts on safe routes to school; and eliminate library late fees.
The new initiatives come without an increase in the tax levy for 2021.
In addition, the council added $10,000 in funding for the Douglas County Historical Society and increased wages for employees not represented by a union to match cost of living increases, 1.6%. The measures will be paid for by reducing the city’s contingency fund by $18,500. A $46,500 contingency remains in the budget.
Councilor Brent Fennessey proposed the funding for the Douglas County Historical Society after the city provided it for 2020 through the city’s hotel/motel tax fund rather than the museums line item as it had in years past.
“Last year, they were removed from the budget completely,” Fennessey said.
Rather than trying to amend the city’s budget last year, Fennessey said the organization approached the city for funding through the city’s portion of hotel/motel taxes.
The council also set aside the $10,000 allocation for the library to replace revenue collected from late fees into a separate budget line and directed the finance committee to review the amount to ensure the allocation is sufficient to cover late fees.
“I don’t know if $10,000 is going to be enough,” Fennessey said.
“A lot of them are kids whose parents didn’t get them to the book drop on time,” said Superior Public Library Director Sue Heskin.
The policy change would only apply to late fees; people who fail to return items would still be required to pay for them.
Heskin said the library board currently budgets $10,000 for late fees. By eliminating the library fines, she said about 500 people, including about 100 children, will again have access to the library’s resources.
“Especially in this time of COVID, with children needing access to electronic materials, a block on your record also excludes you from using our e-books, our audiobooks, some of our electronic databases,” Heskin said. “We just want kids to have access to all of our resources that we have here.”
Mayor Jim Paine said the additional funding for the library would be a long-term commitment to ensure the library budget doesn’t face a deficit.
The move is "something that is overdue and is something we can really be proud of," said Councilor Jenny Van Sickle.
Councilor Jack Sweeney proposed increasing wages slightly to match cost of living increases. The move means the 1.5% raise anticipated for employees not represented by unions will be 1.6%.
“I think this budget is the strength of our core responsibility, which is fire, police, public works and employees,” Sweeney said. “I’m 100% in favor of passing it.”
The council also approved the budget for the city’s capital improvement program, which includes funding for sidewalk clearing equipment, general street and sidewalk maintenance, and facility maintenance and improvements.
Paine also recommended creating a strategic reserve using excess revenue left over from the 2019 budget to improve the fiscal health of the city. It will eliminate deficits in the city’s liability insurance and illegal taxes funds, and seed them with $50,000 each; set aside revenue for a property revaluation fund; and offset revenue lost in 2020 from the hotel/motel fund to support community events such as fireworks and the annual ice festival.
The council approved the proposal.