Niles gets ‘clean’ audit opinion

Published 2:24 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2023

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NILES — The city of Niles is in good financial health, Council members learned Monday. Auditors reported their findings at Monday’s meeting, saying that they had given the city a clean, unmodified opinion. 

Bill Tucker and Tyler Baker of the Maner Costerisan auditing firm told council members that a clean, unmodified opinion is the highest opinion they can give to a government body. Their audit report was for the 2022 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2022.  

Specifically, Tucker and Baker said the city’s general fund reserves are at a healthy level. They said the general fund reserves are at $5.66 million which represents 66 percent of annual operating expenditures. General fund revenue ended the fiscal year at just under $11.5 million and expenditures ended the year at $11.2 million. 

They also gave information on long term trends relative to the budget. The city has seen a steady increase in the fund balance over the last five years with a spike last year with the influx of American Rescue Plan Act funds, they said. 

When asked how Niles compares with other municipalities in terms of fund balance as a percentage of expenditures, Tucker said he sees many having that percentage at around 30 percent. The goal is always to have that percentage be a minimum of 15 to 20 percent. As stated above, Niles is at 66 percent. 

Auditors also looked at the city’s pension funding. They said the city’s pension fund was at $9.16 million at the end of 2021 which is 80.06 percent. They said most municipalities around the state are at an average of between 75 to 80 percent. “You’re right in that ballpark,” Tucker said. 

In other business Monday, council members approved 10 items on the agenda covering everything from the Memorial Day Parade to roof repairs at the Niles History Center. 

The annual American Legion Larue Messenger Post 26 Memorial Day Parade was approved for May 29 as was the annual Lifeplan Hero Run 5K/10K for April 22. 

With the Niles History Center, the bid of $848,403 from Mihm Enterprises of Hamilton, Mich. was accepted for repairs to the History Center roof. The project has been in the planning since 2020 and funds will come from a number of sources including ARPA funds ant the State Historic Preservation Office. Mihm was the sole bidder. 

Also Monday, council members approved a pay raise for Dial-A-Ride Transportation drivers. Their hourly rate will go from $15 an hour to $17.50 an hour. City officials hope the wage hike will help them keep employees and fill vacancies. 

Council members approved a resolution in support of a Local Bridge Funding Grant application to make repairs and maintenance to the Broadway bridge. Public Works Director Joe Ray said work would be done in 2026 with the current cost estimate being $4.3 million. If the city gets the grant, their share of the cost would be 10 percent. 

The council approved a contract with Wightman & Associates for engineering work for the Wayne Street resurfacing project. Wightman’s bid was for $120,200. The $604,154 project for the section of Wayne from Fifth to Thirteenth is scheduled to be done in 2024 with funding coming from federal and local sources. 

Council members approved the renewal of the city’s master level certification in the Michigan Main Street Program. Niles has been part of that program since 2005. 

The council accepted two grants from the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation. They accepted $1,500 from the Mahlon J. and Thelma Smith endowment to help fund the “Santa on the River” documentary celebrating its 60th year. They also accepted $20,000 from the foundation for the “Help for Homes” program.