City Council Throws Out the Budget

By Bob Volpe ~

In a surprise attack on next year’s budget, city council decided to
send the budget back to the city. Council has taken a hard line on
fiscal responsibility insisting the budget meet stricter guidelines
that restores the 10 percent budget reserve.

At two tables set up in a wide open V shape sat the mayor, council
members, the city manager and city finance director. It looked vaguely
like a living set up for the last supper.

Two other tables faced the open end of the V where the various city
department heads sat. Parks & Recreation, City Planning, Public Works,
Utilities, Special Projects, and the Chief of Police all sat facing
the open end of the V, like turkeys waiting to see who would be
pardoned by staff and who would be next weeks dinner.

Earlier this month council held their first workshop, to discuss ways
to cut spending in the 2018 budget. They kicked around proposals to
deny or lower city employee raises, eliminate the special projects
department, cut funding to Main Street, and fire a part time employee
at the cultural center. The only apparent survivor of that discussion
was the police department who would see the hiring freeze lifted and
future money released pending the completion of an employee and salary
survey early next year.

At this second meeting all that was thrown out with the bath water
when councilman John Schafer proposed the city live up to a 2014
council resolution which stated the budget must maintain a balance of
not less than 10 percent of the general fund’s total operating
expenditures as an emergency reserve. Shafer said, “We were serious
when we passed that. What’s happened in ensuing years did not provide
for the 10 percent.” Schafer insisted the budget be rewritten to
conform to the 10 percent rule. He said, “It’s passed time to become
better stewards and exercise our responsibility to oversee all matters
financial.”

Currently the reserve is at about 5 percent, or $400,000, as a result
of dipping into the fund to help finance the Aquatic Center, Memorial
Park renovation, and the new city maintenance facility.

Mayor Levy’s response to Schafer’s statement was that achieving the
goal of 10 percent might be better if done in increments rather than
all at once in this budget. Mayor pro tem Carrol Harvey and councilman
Ken Matthews agreed with the mayor. Matthews suggested the budget aim
for a 7.5 percent reserve this year and make up the remainder with the
next budget.

The rest of the council was steadfast that the 10 percent be reached
in this budget. The consensus this night was 4-2 to throw the budget
back to the city until it can come up with a budget that restores a 10
percent general fund reserve.

This was supposed to be councilman Val Carr’s day to shine. The small
committee, consisting of Carr, councilman Schafer, former councilman
Bob Carlsen, and Darwin Naccarato, spent hundreds of hours developing
a plan to make the city’s vehicle use more efficient and save the city
hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Vehicle Usage Review Committee (VURC) penned its report last
October. It outlined ways to streamline vehicle usage by city
employees, including halting the practice of some employees driving
city vehicles home and disposing of excess vehicles.

Carr’s plan was loaded with data compiled by actual numbers from city
vehicle usage logs. It also compared the city’s vehicle usage to other
cities vehicle usage. The VURC study concluded that the city dispose
of 15 vehicles and institute a motor pool type of structure for the
certain transportation needs of city employees.

With the decision to have the budget conform to the 10 percent rule
Carr’s study was also thrown in the dust bin of history.

City manager David Buttery stated he is perfectly willing to rewrite
the budget to reach the 10 percent reserve with this budget. He said,
“If council directs me to get to 10 percent, we will get to 10
percent. But my expectation then would be that you won’t pick apart
the budget on how we got there for things that you might think are of
a specific interest to you. If you give me that goal, my expectation
will be, certainly you get to decide. If we get to that 10 percent, I
would hope we would get a budget that would pass.”

As soon as Buttery finished speaking Carr proclaimed he would not be
held hostage to not be allowed to lobby for the technology proposals
that are in the budget. The idea that one should be careful what one
wishes for, because you might just get it suddenly reared its ugly
head.

So now we wait to see whose sacred cows get gored, what planned city
projects don’t get done next year, who and how many city employees
possibly lose their jobs or benefits, what public services are
eliminated or cut back, and what other public amenities are curtailed.

If this meeting resembled a living set up for the last supper, it was
clear, at the end of the meal, that nobody at the table was willing to
pick up the check.

 For the complete recorded session go to : http://www.mountainjackpot.com/woodland-park-city-council-meetings/