Cologne Council reviews audit

by Adam Gruenewald
[email protected]

The City of Cologne remains in good financial shape with several key factors influencing the budget going forward.
That was the message received by council members from Joel Stencel of Eide Bailly during their regular meeting on Monday, June 19.
In terms of the 2016 financial audit, overall expenses decreased from $1,151,958 in 2015 to $1,094,804 in 2016 and revenues also decreased from $1,319,390 in 2015 to $1,307,123 in 2016.
“The general fund is pretty strong,” said Stencel. “Any concern I have is with those debt service funds and when they refund. As long as we have mechanisms to fund that moving forward… that would be the only thing to look at if we have a concern.”
Addressing some of the revenue concerns and responding to questions from council members, both City Administrator Jesse Dickson and Stencel attributed some of those to decreases in revenues with Cologne Academy in terms of gym usage.
In terms of expenses, the splash pad was a major factor in 2015 and 2016 and should go to zero in 2017 and the city remains in good shape in terms of fund balances.
“We have about twice as much in fund balance for expenses,” said Stencel, highlighting the need of 5/12 cash flow figure because the city receives property taxes in May and October. “You need cash in the bank to get through those five months. Where you land from a fund balance perspective is based on what you are comfortable with as a council.”
For special funds, water increased in revenue from $446,079 in 2015 to $323,960 in 2016 and expenses decreased from $377,421 in 2015 to $323,960. Also, sewer fund revenues decreased from $466,584 to $462,008 and expenses increased from $338,572 to $432,177 and in terms of the stormsewer fund revenues decreased from $26,776 to $27,448 and expenses dropped from $24,394 to $9,964.
“In an ideal world rates would be enough to cover your expenses in water, sewer and stormsewer,” said Stencel, adding members have made efforts to address concerns in the enterprise funds. “These should really be self-sustaining.”
As is typical, there remains concerns for Cologne for internal controls that is caused because of their size and those included segregation of duties.
In other news, council members reviewed a Minnesota Department of Transportation update from Jon Solberg on Highway 212 and other state road projects.
“Highway 212 2- to 4- lane expansion is still going nowhere fast,” said Solberg.
While Highway 212 expansion is still up in the air, a 2019 project that would start in April would create ¾ intersections of Market Avenue/Highway 41 and Laurel Avenue at the cost of $1.4 million, a 2020 project involving the mill and overlay of Highway 212 in NYA that could involve a substantial underpass project and a 2022 resurfacing project of Highway 212 from NYA to Cologne that might involve reconstructing portions of Highway 212 near Bongards. Another project in 2019 will address the intersections of Highway 43 and Tacoma Avenue in NYA with electronic safety systems to alert drivers of approaching traffic. A reclamation project involving Highway 284 is tentatively scheduled for 2024 and could be moved up depending on usage and there is a Highway 212 resurfacing project theoretically set for the mid-2020s depending on if a 4-lane expansion takes place.
“You’re going to see a significant reduction in traffic in Cologne,” said Solberg, referring to alternate routes during the various Highway 212 projects. “We’ll know more as the project starts to move forward next year.”
None of the projects are completely finalized, Solberg said, and there will be public input meetings held in the future.
“We weight the risks of slow moving farm equipment of all that other high volume, high speed traffic,” said Solberg. “If we make it wide enough, can we move them across and we know it will be an issue.”
Cologne council members also briefly discussed and approved a 2017 trails and road sealing project following up on streets and trails that were previously milled and overlayed in 2014 and 2015 and approved a $62,042.05 contract with Bargen for the project involving RePlay material.
The Cologne City Council will next meet at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 17, because of the Fourth of July holiday and lack of crucial business resulting in just one meeting in July.