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Morris approves balanced budget

MORRIS – The city of Morris expects to spend more in fiscal 2015, but will still retain a balanced budget.

During Monday’s council meeting, the Morris City Council passed, 7-0, the budget and wage schedule for fiscal 2015, which begins May 1.

The former budget officer and city clerk, John Enger, helped current city clerk Carol Adair prepare the 2015 budget.

“Carol, the mayor and myself have done a bit of work on this budget, and we think we’ve got a good one,” Enger said before Monday’s council meeting.

The city expects to spend about $9.1 million from the general operating fund, up from the $7.7 million spent in fiscal 2014.

The bulk of the increase stems from $1 million more in expenditures in the street and alley department. The city intends to purchase two additional vehicles this year at $375,000 through that department’s fund.

The police department also expects to spend $200,000 more in 2015 because of new vehicle purchases and salary increases next fiscal year.

The city opted to add an additional $80,000 to the contingency fund in fiscal 2015.

“We still have a hefty $7.9 million in cash reserves, which is much more than is suggested by actuaries and auditors,” Enger said. “Luckily, we have a good sales tax and income tax base.”

The council also approved the wage schedule for fiscal 2015. The schedule includes the standard 3 percent pay raises for all eligible employees except for four city employees – three secretaries and the human resources administrator – who will receive larger pay increases than normal.

“We felt these employees go above and beyond their duties,” Adair said prior to Monday’s meeting. “These raises are very well-deserved.”

No objection was raised on the budget during the public hearing held Monday evening before the council meeting, but some discussion was had during the meeting about employee insurance payments.

Currently, the city pays 100 percent of the insurance for the 73 full-time city employees and their families.

For fiscal 2015, the city budgeted $1.6 million for insurance benefits, but Enger said that figure could change as the effects of the Affordable Healthcare Act become more apparent.

“Because of the Obamacare act, no one really knows exactly what’s going to happen to the costs,” Enger said. “Next year, we’ll have to take a serious look at it.”

Montage Wine and Spirits liquor license

The council also approved an ordinance upgrading the liquor license for local business Montage Wine Bar and Spirits. With the license, the store can now sell whiskey by the glass in-store or by the bottle for later consumption.

The ordinance passed, 5-2, with aldermen Brian Feeney and Julian Houston voting against the measure.

The license was the source of much discussion during Monday’s meeting, as well as previous meetings, and had to be reworded before passage. The term “whiskey” replaced the term “small-batch spirits” because Feeney felt it was too vague.

Montage’s operating hours also were extended with the amended license. The store’s new hours will be from noon to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and noon until midnight on Sunday.

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