NEW BUFFALO — During the public comment portion of the Dec. 19 New Buffalo City Council meeting, St. Mary of the Lake Parish Council member Glenn Kaminski reported that the church’s water bill had increased from a typical $55 bi-monthly charge to over $2,000 (the most recent bill).

He stated that currently, St. Mary’s school is closed, and the space is serving the community assisting low-income residents through Head Start and Women, Infants and Children (WICS) programs.

These programs are funded entirely from donations and Kaminski said, “we can’t pass along this type of bill increase to our Parish and donors.”

He asked the council to consider charging for actual water usage and not based on the size of their meter.

Addressing non-profit water rates was also on the meeting agenda, and Mayor John Humphrey said “the City should help them manage their water bill due to their strong non-profit commitment to the community.”

He added, “I’m just not sure what our responsibility is to other churches in the city if we make an exception of St. Mary’s.”

City Manager Darwin Watson suggested that the City Council could hold a special workshop after the first of the year and invite representatives from local churches. During such a meeting, the council would have information regarding the financial impact on the city from subsidizing these specific water bills. This type of forum also would give the council an opportunity to assess contributions made to the community and plan how to move forward.

Also on Dec. 19, the Fiscal Year 2022 Year End Audit was presented.

Auditors Gabridge & Company of Grand Rapids gave the City an “Unmodified Opinion” or “clean” rating – the highest level of assurance.

Highlights presented by Senior Auditor Kevyn Kozumpik included:

The City’s total revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, was $7,449,871 while total cost of all programs and services was $6,298,026. This resulted in an increase in net position of $1,151,045.

Total fund balance of the general fund increased by $369,461 during the year for an ending total balance of $2,869,800.

At the close of the current fiscal year, the City’s governmental funds reported combined fund balances of $5,550,564, an increase of $487,249 in comparison with the prior year. Approximately 46.4 percent of this amount, or $2,572,801, is available for spending at the City’s discretion (unassigned fund balance).

The City’s revenues from governmental activities break down as follows: 58 percent taxes, 21 percent charges for services, 10 percent operating grants and contributions and 11 percent “other.”

Expenses for the City’s governmental activities come from public works (30 percent), public safety (29 percent), general government (18 percent), recreation and culture (17 percent) and 6 percent “other.”

The city’s pension fund has gone from being an $80,352 liability (December ‘20) to being a $120,309 asset (December ’21).

Both Mayor Humphrey and City Manager Watson reminded Council Members that while revenues and fund balances are up, and the City’s financial position is good, projected expenses for the current fiscal year are up as well.

An additional topic addressed during the open discussion was the status of 5-Year Recreational Plan. A recommendation has been made from The Parks and Harbor Commission (who hired Abonmarche to develop the plan) to the City, Township and New Buffalo Area Recreation Authority.

The document is available to view online at www.cityofnewbuffalo.org and includes results of the resident survey. Approval of the plan will be voted on at the January meeting.

“I definitely support moving forward on a 5-year recreational plan…we really need to make sure we focus on our current recreation deficits including the beach and parks and get this done so we will be eligible for grant money,” said Humphrey.

Also, during the meeting, Dan Peterson, Executive Director of The Pokagon Fund made two announcements. First, The Pokagon Fund currently has an opening for a position on its Board of Directors. The vacancy is for a partial term which expires around the end of April 2023. A candidate profile and application can be found by visiting www.pokagonfund.org or by calling TPF offices at (269) 469-9322.

Peterson also reminded the Council that applications for scholarships from The Pokagon Fund are now available to any adult or graduating senior who is a resident of the City of New Buffalo; the Townships of Chikaming, New Buffalo or Three Oaks or the Village of Grand Beach, Michiana or Three Oaks. The scholarships can be used toward the costs of tuition/fees or books for many types of post-secondary education or career training including college/universities, trade schools, community colleges, police/fire academies and more. Applications are due on March 15, 2023.

In other Dec. 19 business, approvals were given to:

• Renew the Fire Service Agreement with New Buffalo Township in the amount of $60,000.

• Support another term for Board of Review appointments Juli Westergen, Vanessa Thun and Jack Kennedy.

• Adopt the 2023 City of New Buffalo Meeting Calendar.

• Award the Independence Day fireworks display contract to Pyrotechnico Fireworks, Inc. in the amount of $16,500.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.