Miller at odds with ‘13 city budget
By Becky Brooks
One City Councilman challenged the proposed 2013 budget during a finance and budget meeting this week.
Councilman John Miller told members of the council committee he wanted to see a larger carry over at year’s end.
“I am very concerned about our budget only ending up at $660,000,” he said.
The City Council has held two readings of the 2013 Permanent Appropriations Budget, and the final reading and passage of this budget is slated for Monday, March 25 at the regular council session.
The city is to have a permanent budget in place by April 1.
Miller questioned several department budgets asking why they were increasing by 25 percent from 2012 to 2013.
“We should have a realistic budget — on that is not $200,000 over,” he said about one city department.
For example, the Street Maintenance Department spent $374,575 in 2012 and are tentatively budgeted $522,350 in 2013.
The City Recreation Department spent $$525,959 in 2012 and the 2013 budget includes $745,750, according to the city document.
The Water Production Plant uses $1,050,766 last year and it is budgeted $1,263,000 for 2013.
The Water Capital Improvement budget jumped up nearly $200,000 between actual 2012 and the proposed 2013 spending. The auditor’s office is also slated for a near $70,000 increase in its department budget.
Many departments would see small increases between actual 2012 dollars and those budgeted for this year. Some too would see decreases this year.
Overall the city’s 2013 projected budget totals 11 percent over the actual money spent in 2012.
Council President Karen Justice pointed out that putting additional funds into individual department budgets reduces the need for repeated ordinances to be submitted to the council for approval and publication. She pointed out that when not enough money is put into a line item, an ordinance must be drafted to move funds. She said each ordinance costs the city $800 for legal fees and publication costs.
City Auditor Steve Smith commented, “We’re not going to spend every single dollar in our budget.”
The total budget for the city in 2013 is projected at $14,403,020. The actual budget in 2012 was $12,974,615.
Smith explained some departments saw increases in their budgets due to a change in what is not listed as a capital expenditure. Projects which were maintenance were shifted back into department budgets, out of the capital line items, he explained.
Justice also pointed out that the departments’ budgets also increased due to union agreements for wage increases.
On Tuesday, Safety-Service Director Jeffrey Crosby said that contracts have included an average 2-percent wage increase over the next three years for city staff.
In the street department budget — one which Miller made note of — the budget increased to pay for an additional employee hired in 2013, Crosby said.
Through negotiation that one new worker will be mowing all city departments — saving overtime in various departments and the new employee will still be available for street work, Crosby added.
He added that the auditor’s office budget increases for new software and training to make bill paying easier for customers.
On Monday night, Miller said he was concerned that the balance was smaller than it had been last year and that with the U.S. 20 repaving money (over $600,000) no longer coming out of the city budget — there should have be a larger carryover at the end of 2013 — not smaller. He added that once the money is in a line item — the departments can spend the money.
Justice pointed out that all expenditures still must go through Crosby’s office for approval. She also pointed out that costs to operate the city water department and wastewater treatment plant were going up.
Councilwoman Rose Mary Nasconi, chairwoman of the budget and finance committee, pointed out that the committee has been looking over the city budget since last fall to first pass the current temporary budget and the past two months to review the proposed permanent budget.
“I’m not afraid of the guys spending the money,” Miller said about city supervisors. He commented he wanted to see a lower percentage increase. “When you do up a budget, you do one that is realistic.”
Smith commented, “I am going to respectfully disagree with you as we laid it out.”
He said buffers were built into departments financially where needed and there would still be a $660,000 carryover at year’s end. Smith said he was being conservative with projections of revenue and the carryover could be much higher at the end of this year.
While Smith disagreed with Miller’s assessment, he said it was council who had the final say on the budget.
“I think we’ve come up with a pretty effective way of budgeting,” Smith said, noting he has been with the city since 2001.
“I don’t think you are being very fair to Steve,” Mayor Donald Berkey commented to Miller. Berkey said allotting a 10 percent budget increase for a home and business may be practical.
“With a government, you have a lot of variables you don’t have control of,” he said.