By Shelby R. Farrell


POPLAR GROVE – The Village of Poplar Grove’s audit report for fiscal year 2014-2015 showed increases despite recent speculation on spending habits.

Matt Beran, an employee of accounting company Lauterbach & Amen, presented the company’s report to the Village of Poplar Grove Board of Trustees at the City Council meeting on Sept. 14. He said that the overall feeling of the village’s finances is that they’re “in pretty good shape.”

The total of the village government’s money, apart from the water fund, equaled to $4.6 million at the end of the fiscal year on April 30. The amount increased $631,000 from the previous year.

“That came from a good year of general funds, … a little bit more pay down on your debt and an overall increase in your capital assets contributed to this number increasing,” Beran told the council.

The unrestricted and restricted government funds also increased in the year by about $350,000.

The general fund balance, which represents the money accessible to the village, was $1.6 million, increasing by $234,000. The money made versus the money spent on operating costs also increased by $745,000. Beran said over-budget revenues and under-budget expenditures are the cause for the village’s good financial year.

“Let’s say you know every thing on these 55 pages of numbers and descriptors, etcetera, etcetera, and let’s just happen to say you were a trustee that was sitting up here and had one-sixth of a vote on what happens or whatever direction or whatever,” Trustee Don Bawden said.

“With your knowledge of the 55 pages of information, what is the one thing that you say, ‘wow, that’s pretty good’?”

Beran replied that the overall “health of the general fund” was impressive, and showed improvements. Bawden then asked what would make him “roll up his sleeves” to make it better.

“Make sure you’re fully on top of what’s going on with the water fund and that it’s getting fully funded by itself and that you’re going to be able to withstand any water main breaks, or whatever, on its own, and then just making sure you have a plan for the general fund money,” he explained.

“You need to make sure you have five and 10 year plans laid out.”

Trustee Ron Quimby said making long-term plans for the village’s money is something new to the Village of Poplar Grove, and the advice was taken seriously.

The Board of Trustees also approved official policies for capital assets, fund balances, and investments at September’s meeting.

Utility billing, payment policies still under criticism

While some new policies were approved at the Poplar Grove Board of Trustees meeting, some public works billing and payment policy issues resurfaced.

When the discussion to approve payment plans for two village residents came up on the agenda, Trustee Neeley Erickson questioned the request.

“I thought we did away with payment plans,” she asked.

At the Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 12, the board approved a change to the water-sewer code that eliminated the ability for residential members to get payment plans simply by going to Village Hall.

Instead, those people are required to submit their requests through the Finance and Public Works Committee. After the committee approves a payment plan, it is brought before the Board of Trustees for approval.

However, Village Administrator Diana Dykstra said about 14 payment plans have been issued since the meeting in January without being approved by the board.

During the discussion at the September meeting, trustees said there was a payment plan policy in place before January, but the policy wasn’t consistent.

Erickson said people would wait until their water was about to be shut off before asking for a payment plan. Residents waiting for the last minute combined with payment inconsistencies brought on the changes in January and the continued criticisms from the board on September.

“If we are going to do payment plans, I think it should be a set payment plan, not everybody gets their own payment plan,” Erickson said.

“We have two payment plans in front of us, and they’re two different payment plans, which makes it twice as difficult to enforce and to administer.”

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