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home : opinions : our editorials September 14, 2014


7/31/2013 1:58:00 PM
Goal meetings focus government
The Rice Lake Chronotype

Once a year Rice Lake's City Council steps back from the day-to-day operations of the city to set priorities and consider where the city is going. That happened Monday night, July 29 during the annual goals meeting.
Councilmember Mike Diercks offered a goal of restructuring the city staff when key staffers retire. Expected to retire in the next few years are city administrator Curt Snyder and city planner Harry Skulan.
Diercks suggested hiring both a chief financial officer and an operational manager to replace city administrator Snyder. The city planner's job would be rolled into the two new positions when he retires.
While a new administrative job will be created, another will be eliminated, meaning there will be no net increase in staff.
Diercks said now is the time to start thinking about a management restructuring plan, rather than waiting to react to the changes. He said hiring the right people is key. We agree, but we're not endorsing the idea.
Diercks said the change was needed because a city administrator could be too focused on either finance or operations at the expense of the other. We're not convinced that's true, but we do endorse planning and looking at options now rather than waiting until there's a crisis.
Construction of a new library also took a step ahead with official endorsement by the council, but a case of sticker shock broke out when library director Dawn Wacek told the council the initial projected cost was about $10 million, which included most everything on the wish list. The city has budgeted about $7 million for the library in 2021, with $5 million of that coming from private donations.
Wacek said the immediate goal was to accelerate the building schedule because building costs increase over time, but from the reaction of the council it looked like it's going to take some selling before any dirt gets turned.
In another matter, the council said it wanted department heads to hold flat budgets in 2014. That follows a requested 10% decrease in budgets for 2013.
While people complain bitterly about high taxes, this council, and the councils before it, have focused intently on controlling city spending. That has resulted in Rice Lake remaining in sound financial shape while providing sufficient services. While some cities are declaring bankruptcy, Rice Lake continues to stay solvent thanks to the work of this council and many councils before it.
The goal setting meetings began in 1994 when city government found itself reacting to circumstances rather than setting its own course. Goal setting is now part of the annual budget process. It provides a framework for budgeting while giving city staffers better direction in where to spend their time and resources. It's a lengthy, sometimes contentious process, but one that focuses city government and saves money in the long run. And that's getting to be more and more what city government is about.

[The editorials that appear weekly in this space are the views of the newspaper as determined by The Chronotype's editorial board. All editorials are written by one or more members of the board, which consists of Warren Dorrance, Sam Finazzo, Gene Prigge and Eileen Nimm.]

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