MANKATO — Minor reforms to how the City Council spends money on training and travel appear to be coming next year.
A more orderly practice may replace the current one, wherein councilors just pick conferences to attend throughout the year.
A recent trip to Moldova exposed a weakness in that strategy after several councilors wanted to go, but the $17,000 training and travel budget could only support two plane tickets.
A possible plan is to allot each councilor $3,000, which would take any competition out of the mix. City Manager Pat Hentges said that would be enough to attend one national conference and two in-state conferences.
The council’s reaction was lukewarm; no one really supported or opposed it.
Councilwoman Karen Foreman said she doubted $3,000 would pay for three conferences, including one national one.
She agreed, though, that the council should discuss earlier in the year who is going where.
“At the very last minute we’re trying to figure out who's going where,” she said, which ends up costing more money in airfare and conference fees.
That would also prevent another repercussion of the Moldova trip — the council going over-budget in training and travel.
In a bit of a tangent, Councilor Mark Frost suggested the city’s overall training and travel budget for employees could be an “area to cut.” He said he found $150,000 in overall city spending in the area, and suggested lopping 20 percent off wouldn’t be so bad. Frost said the suggestion was prompted by earlier assertions that there aren’t other places in the budget to cut without affecting city services.
Councilors Jack Considine and Tamra Rovney didn’t like that plan. Some employees need training to keep their certification up.
Frost, a pharmacist, replied that he can take his periodic training online.
That, though, was where the brief budget-cutting discussion ended.