Budget OK in Shepherdsville not without questions

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By Stephen Thomas

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - A split 4-2 approval vote made the proposed 2013-14 fiscal year budget official after a lengthy conversation.

The council followed the second reading with concerns prior to the vote. 

Council member Faith Portman said she thought a few questions still lingered about budgets involving individual city departments.

“I wanted a workshop for each department, like we used to do, and I felt rushed,” she said. “I haven’t sat with all the departments yet. There’s a few things in there I’m not happy about.”

Council member Bernard “Bernie” Brown mentioned that there was one more council meeting before the budget needed to be approved for the year.

“Let’s have our (finance) committee take a good thorough look,” he added.

Brown made a motion to delay the budget vote until the next meeting, seconded by council member Clinton Kline. The vote failed 2-3 with Portman undecided.

Portman mentioned an issue in particular with the sewer department’s budget, leading city controller Bob Ryan joining the conversation. Ryan mentioned the sewer department paid an administration fee and was not a separate department.

According to Ryan, the number in question, a $200,000 annual rent payment, used to be shared by sewers, police and fire. It would now be paid for by the sewer department.

“The police department has no funds to pay,” he added. “That number never should’ve been in your budget.”

Kline inquired about an amount of $120,000 alleviated from sewer bills. Ryan said the amount in question involved administrative fees for other positions such as city clerk or controller.

“Sewer is its own entity,” he added. “It’s not under that umbrella.”

Portman asked about the city’s tow lot as funding. Ryan said the lot was not a police revenue item.

“All revenue goes to the general fund unless it’s in a restricted fund,” he said.

Brown made another motion to table the vote for two weeks.

“It’s wise to take a few more days and resolve issues, then read it again and vote,” he said. “It doesn’t matter when. We don’t want to rush without certainty. The budget is the most critical thing the council can do.”

Kline again seconded the motion, but it again failed to pass.

Ryan said the budget had been “on the table” for a month and plenty of meetings were held to discuss it.

“As controller of the city, my office has been pretty bare of anyone coming in to talk to me,” he said. “It’s gonna be the same in two weeks.”

Portman asked if individual department budgets were changed after they were brought to the controller’s office. Ryan said experts from each department bring in wish list items while his job was to get what he could within city revenue.

“In years past we chopped (the budget),” Portman said. “We didn’t see any wish lists. I still think it’s better to do it one budget at a time.”

“The homework was done,” Ryan said. “The council got the final result.”

Brown said the council had “every right to review” the budget. Ryan responded that adjustments were made immediately after a budget meeting with the council.

“You were given that,” Ryan said. “Don’t tell me changes weren’t made.”

Mayor Scott Ellis asked for action from the council, leading to a motion to vote on both the city and the sewer budgets. The council voted 4-2 to allow the budget voting.

“We’ll vote on these budgets tonight,” Ellis announced.

Both budgets were approved by a 4-2 vote, with Brown and Kline again in opposition. Portman, who voted in approval, said next year’s budget preparations should be handled differently.

“Give (departments) their time,” she said. “It just seems like they’re more comfortable with us.”

The Shepherdsville 2013-14 fiscal year budget included $6.7 million in estimated revenue, up almost $1 million from the previous budget.

Estimated police department revenue climbed about $60,000 to $204,000. Estimated fire revenue remained similar, set around $75,000.

Appropriations for the 2013-14 budget were listed at $7.4 million, up $400,000 from the 2012-13 budget. Total administration appropriations were increased to $2,1 million, up from $1.5 million in the previous budget.

Increases included a $600,000 raise for police and $350,000 for fire. Public works also raised about $170,000.

The 2013-14 budget for sewer operation and maintenance increased in estimated revenue about $400,000, up to $4.5 million.

Estimated increases include an additional $100,000 from both the Louisville Water Company and Jim Beam, Inc.

An estimated tap-on increase was placed at $75,000, up from $25,000 last year’s budget.

The biggest change in estimated sewer appropriations was in the emergency fund, totaling $812.000. Last year’s rate was set at $106,000 ($521,000 in the emergency fund was budgeted in city appropriations in the 2012-13 city budget).

Operating expenses were also increased, up $65,000 to $515,000. A $20,000 increase was added to employee expenses.

Facilities and equipment expenses were raised $100,000 to $864,000.