Dayton fails to pass 2023 budget as accusations fly; deadline now in question

Commissioners Turner-Sloss, Fairchild refuse to support emergency measure; Shaw calls their move a ‘stunt’ and 1theater’

Three of the five members of the Dayton City Commission warned on Thursday that if their colleagues did not soon come to the negotiating table and pass the 2023 budget the city is at risk of an unprecedented government shut down that has never happened in the city’s long history.

Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr. and Commissioners Chris Shaw and Matt Joseph on Thursday held press conferences where they said time is running out to get the budget approved before there are some grave consequences.

“The city will shut down, our employees including police, fire, EMS, sanitation, public works and everybody else, water, will not get paid,” said Commissioner Matt Joseph. “There will be no trash pickup, no snow removal, any water or infrastructure emergencies will go unaddressed.”

They made those warnings one day after Wednesday night’s city commission meeting where Commissioners Shenise Turner-Sloss and Darryl Fairchild said they would abstain from voting on emergency legislation approving the 2023 budget that includes a general fund budget of nearly $208 million.

Turner-Sloss and Fairchild said they had unresolved concerns and the city has ignored their spending priorities and wishes.

“I’ve asked for a policy-based budget. I asked for ...the public to have participation in this process,” Commissioner Turner-Sloss said.

Fairchild on Thursday said he and Turner-Sloss are eager to work their fellow commissioners and the city manager to propose a budget that reflects the commission’s priorities.

“It is the commission’s obligation and fiduciary responsibility to approve a comprehensive budget that is intentional,” he said.

Tempers flared during the commission meeting.

Turner-Sloss and Fairchild said their budget priorities were not properly addressed and included in the city’s spending plan and they would abstain from voting on the emergency appropriations and budget recommendations legislation.

Fairchild said the city manager and other members of the commission on multiple occasions tried to minimize and dismiss his concerns instead of working with him to find solutions.

“There is an opportunity to work together to try to overcome some of these issues, but that wasn’t the path that we chose tonight,” he said Wednesday.

Fairchild said priorities he shared with the city manager in an October email included neighborhood development and he wanted a plan for the city to reuse unproductive properties.

He said he wanted the city to fulfill some other action items of the City of Learners program, beyond Preschool Promise.

He also said he wanted the city to increase the capacity of the Human Relations Council and he wanted enhanced litter pickup and alley cleanings, possibly by adding crews.

Commissioner Turner-Sloss sent a message in early November to the city’s budget director indicating she would like the city increase the budget for the Human Relations Council.

She said the number of staff is inadequate to satisfy the commission’s priorities.

She said the city has a “cookie-cutter budget” and it needs one that is policy-based. She also said some of her other budget concerns cannot be discussed in public, but did not elaborate.

Turner-Sloss said she would not be bullied into voting the way some of her peers desired.

Commissioners Shaw and Joseph and the mayor on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon said they were very frustrated that Fairchild and Turner-Sloss did not raise their concerns earlier on during multiple budget discussions and work sessions.

The commission hosted budget workshop sessions in November.

The trio said the city is on a tight deadline to get its 2023 spending authority approved and they felt blindsided by their colleagues’ refusal to vote in favor of the budget.

They claimed Turner-Sloss and Fairchild did not raise objections at any prior point that they could have worked through.

Mayor Mims said that failing to get the budget approved in time would mean the city would not be able to pay its bills and employees, which would jeopardize critical city services.

“It’s reckless, irresponsible and negligent behavior on the behalf of commissioners Turner-Sloss and Fairchild,” he said on Thursday.

Dayton Municipal Court, the Dayton International Airport and many other services and operations will shut down, he and other commission members said.

City Manager Shelley Dickstein said passing the budget with just three votes instead of four means it would not take effect for 30 days, and the city in that case would not have the authority to spend money and pay employees until mid-January.

“There will be no authority to pay employees, no health insurance, no water functionings, no EMS for the members who desperately rely on on EMS,” she said. “No fire service, no police service, no ability to run the airport.”

Commissioner Shaw accused Turner-Sloss and Fairchild of irresponsible grandstanding.

“These ridiculous stunts, and that’s what this is, it’s theater,” he said at the commission meeting. “They’re trying to score some points ... People’s lives are at stake. ... This is serious business, this is not a game.”

Commissioner Fairchild during Wednesday’s meeting said the commission has an opportunity to pass emergency legislation next week after the concerns he and Turner-Sloss raised are actually dealt with.

“Certainly we could try to get over some of these obstacles tomorrow and have a special meeting of the commission on Friday or Saturday, given the seriousness of these issues,” he said.

Commissioner Turner-Sloss on Wednesday said the city is not really at risk of shutting down and that threat is a scare tactic.

Fairchild said he and Turner-Sloss owe it to the residents to find a solution that addresses their outstanding concerns.

He said they will talk about this during a press conference on Friday.

Commissioners Shaw and Joseph on Wednesday night said they wanted to get their colleagues’ issues figured out immediately and they were willing to stay all night at City Hall to discuss the budget if it meant coming to a resolution now.

Commissioners Turner-Sloss and Fairchild said at the time that would not work, and the budget items ultimately were pulled from the commission agenda.

Mims, Shaw and Joseph in public remarks on Thursday encouraged the community to call or reach out to Turner-Sloss and Fairchild to urge them to come to the negotiating table and share their specific demands and try to find a way forward.

The trio said they had not spoken to Turner-Sloss and Fairchild since the commission meeting, but they believe the city manager was trying to arrange a sit-down on Friday.

Joseph said a government shutdown is a very real and very troubling possibility if a budget is not approved soon.

He said the city cannot dip into its rainy day funds (savings) to cover the cost of payroll and operations because the city needs authority to spend money.

Joseph said the latest the city can pass the budget by emergency legislation without causing harm is Wednesday.

If the city does not pass the budget by emergency by Dec. 16, the city will not have the spending authority it needs to cover payroll for every day beyond that, said Dayton Deputy City Manager Joe Parlette.

Payroll expenses for the final weeks of December are paid in January.

The city would face “accruing liability,” Parlette said.

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