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Funding shifts cause friction in Afton

What started out as a seemingly routine fund transfer discussion turned into a heated debate over long term planning.

Afton City Council approved the transfers of $85,000, to the special reserve fund, $25,000 to the building and land capital fund, and $25,000 to the street improvement capital fund, from the city’s general operating fund during its Feb. 18 meeting. 

The final transfers only passed with a 3-2 vote with Council Members Randy Nelson and Bill Palmquist dissenting.

The initial discussion began with a proposal from City Administrator Ron Moorse and the city’s accountant Tom Niedzwiecki to transfer $125,000 to the street improvement capital fund, in preparation of the Old Village road projects, and to transfer $10,000 to the building and land capital fund, in order to replenish funds that were used for repairs at the Afton Historical Museum.

The transfers were able to be made since there was a year-end surplus in the city’s general operating fund.

However, Council Member Joe Richter proposed an alternative by stating he would like to build up the city’s special reserve fund, since it currently sits well below the recommended 50 percent of the city’s budget.

“That’s troubling to me,” Richter said.

Richter proposed transferring $85,000 to the special reserve fund and $50,000 to the building and land capital fund.

When it came to transferring money to the street improvement fund, Richter said he wasn’t comfortable moving $125,000 in preparation of the upcoming road projects in the Old Village given that the city does not have accurate numbers and the fund already has $600,000 in it this year and will have $800,000 next year.

“I think we should protect the money we have until we have some accurate numbers,” he said. “I think we are not shortchanging the Old Village. It’s funded enough.”

Palmquist said he was surprised by Richter’s statements given that in the past he was in full support of building up the street improvement fund.

Additionally, Palmquist said considerable money is needed to repair the streets in the Old Village, excluding County Road 21, which is a county road.

“The roads were neglected for 25 years and now we’re taking care of them,” he said.

Nelson said he could see Richter’s point when it comes to building up the special reserve fund, but it’s not appropriate to dictate which areas of the city get repaired roads.

“It seems like bad politics to say who deserves what,” he said. “I’m all for funding the special reserve, but I don’t think the timing is right – we have too much other stuff coming up.”

In regards to the transferring $50,000 to the building and land capital fund, which essentially goes toward city building and land repairs, Palmquist and Nelson questioned the need to essentially triple the amount of money that had been in the fund.

Council Member Peg Nolz addressed the question by stating that City Hall appears to have an insulation issue that needs to be addressed.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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