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City considers new finance officer position

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RONAN — Ronan is growing rapidly. Federally mandated improvements to the water and sewer systems have furthered present grants and loans. And with more financial responsibilities given to the city clerk, the Ronan City Council moved to advertise for a fiscal officer in a council meeting on Sept. 27. 

“From my perspective,” Ronan council member Paul Soukup said, “You are looking at the growth of Ronan and the complexity of the government itself with grants and the stimulus package.”

Despite advertising for the position, some council members maintain that it’s not a certainty yet. By law, the finance officer position must be funded by percentages from certain departments’ budgets, including the general budget. And in the last year, there has not been very much flexibility in any department’s budget, especially the general budget. 

Mayor Kim Aipperspach said that the finance committee has been considering different funding options, including “juggling around different places and positions.”

He explained that the clerk position, currently held by Kaylene Melton, is funded in the same way and she also handles the fiscal aspect of the position, an aspect that could be handled by a potential fiscal officer. 

Aipperspach doesn’t believe that the clerk position will be eliminated to accommodate the potential fiscal officer’s position, but expresses his doubt concerning the source of the funding. 

Clerk duties have been compounded with more fiscal responsibility and the Melton is taking on more than her fair share of work, Council member Ann Smith Brower said, noting that currently the Melton has accumulated 300 compensation hours.

Brower is adamant in her suggestion (should this be request) that the council must explore all options before the decision is made to hire a finance officer.

Over the last few months, the finance committee has considered many different scenarios, including a possible internship position for a University of Montana accounting student— which Brower said was a sub-par solution to the problem.

Other scenarios include asking the taxpayers for a raise in mill levies or cutting the clerk position to part time. 

No matter how you look at it, council members agree that they need financial expertise when it comes to managing the budget, grants, loans and stimulus money. 

“We have to do our job as city council (members) to explore ways of meeting the needs of the city,” Brower said. “That’s pretty much what it comes down to.”

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