The Tomah City Council hired a financial planner and discussed the financial situation of its ambulance service during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday at Tomah city hall.
By a 6-1 vote, the council voted to retain Ehlers Public Finance Advisors to develop a financial plan for the city and review the status of the city’s Tax Incremental Finance districts.
The city learned earlier this year that its five-year capital improvement plan runs the risk of violating statutory borrowing limits.
“I think it’s only prudent,” said Richard Yarrington, who voted in favor. “The fee that they’re asking is well-invested.”
David Ferries of Ehlers joined the meeting by telephone and told the council that the contract, estimated at $12,000 for the first year, would cover all aspects of city finances — capital planning, debt planning, TID planning, operations and utilities.
He said the review will give the city a better idea of what it can afford.
“It gives a governing body a way to set goals and set strategies,” Ferris said.
Council member Lamont Kiefer cast the lone dissenting vote. He said the information Ehlers is contracted to provide can be generated by existing city staff positions.
Ambulance situationThe council also discussed the finances of the Tomah Area Ambulance Service and its ability to finance a new public safety building. Tomah mayor Mike Murray said the service has been breaking even the past three years and isn’t generating revenue to pay the debt service of the building, estimated to cost more than $10 million.
“There is nothing in the coffers to make a debt payment,” Murray said.
He said the city has no choice but to increase the per-capita charge levied to the municipalities that use the service. He said the city’s rate of $7.50 is significantly lower than the statewide average of $35. Murray proposes gradually raising the charge to $17.50 by 2023.
“We have to step up and do what’s fiscally responsible for the city,” Murray said. “We’re not anywhere near what other cities are charging.”
Yarrington raised questions about whether the increase would be fair to the non-city entities that pay into the service since the new building would house both the ambulance service and fire departments.
“We’re asking the townships to pay a disproportionate share of the building,” he said.
The council voted 7-0 to send the issue to the Ambulance Committee for a recommendation at the October meeting.
In other business, the council:
Received an update on the 2020 census. Outgoing clerk Jo Cram said the city’s response rate has reached 70.5%. “We’re kind of stagnant,” Cram said. “We need to get those numbers to at least 90%.”
Approved a Distinguished Service resolution for Randy Dunford, who will retire as ambulance director Oct. 1.
Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at email@example.com.
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