After discussion Jan. 18, new council member Ryan Liddy proposed that council support a series of budget changes to include revenue increases and spending cuts. If all changes would be approved by council, the general fund budget would come out with $243 more in revenue than expenses for the year.
City Finance Director John Green said the added revenue of $125,000 included $75,000 more in income tax receipts than projected for 2021 and $50,000 in payments from the city risk management association.
The potential cuts included delaying hiring for the deputy police chief position, savings from uncovered shifts in fire and EMS, removing equipment purchases for EMS from the general fund to capital fund, savings from a possible parks department retirement; and reducing the number of parks department seasonal employees.
The proposal to amend the budget was 5-2 with Liddy, Joanna Pittenger, Greg Enslen, Robert Schwab and Council President Kathryn Huffman in support, while Mayor Mike McFarland and Doug Slagel voted “no.” The accompanying proposal to amend appropriations followed with McFarland as the only “no” vote.
“It’s important to me we have a balanced budget for the city,” Huffman said during discussions.
Liddy noted the previous councils “pushed this off on us.”
If council approves the balanced budget and appropriations at the next meeting, it can move forward with city business, including a potential request to taxpayers in the fall, Liddy said. That request would be to move 0.2 percent of the base city income tax from capital improvements to provide more money in the general fund.
City administrators had discussed that option with council in recent months. Administrators also had asked the old and new council to take into consideration that while council had approved general fund budgets with projected deficits for the past 16 years, all of those general funds had ended the year in the black. The city ended 2021 in the black by about $10,000. The city also had accumulated $6 million in general fund reserves that could be used, if needed, Green said.
Council was asked to consider holding a special meeting before month’s end to vote on the budget and appropriations so bills owed in January could be paid. The city needs to make payments on debt among other bills, Green said, adding, “We need the ability to move forward.”
The city could face “a ding” from auditors if the city books showed bills were paid before a budget and appropriations were approved, Green said.
Huffman said she would discuss the possibility of a special meeting with administrators yet this month.
She also made a motion to allow the city to pay “normal operating expenses.” The motion was approved but city Law Director Jonathan Freeman said he would have to research whether council could legally make that decision through a motion versus an ordinance. The ordinance would take more time to approve.
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