MW contingency fund raises council concern

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By Mallory Bilger

MOUNT WASHINGTON ee" City Council members are set to vote on a $9.65 million budget this evening, but it’s unclear if council members will agree on one proposed line item.

On paper, the city’s three budgets, including the general fund, water and sewer fund and the restricted fund are balanced and the city appears to be financially stable.

No lay-offs are predicted for the upcoming fiscal year and city employees are receiving 2 percent raises.

Although the proposed raises are smaller than in past budgets, many cities aren’t able to offer their employees raises at all this year due to tough economic times.

Despite the relative ease of formulating this year’s budget, some council members disagreed on a proposed $100,000 general fund line item set aside as a contingency or emergency fund.

Council members Dale Walter and Larry Porter said they don’t recall discussing the $100,000 at special budget meetings held in May.

“This needs to be removed,” Walter said at the meeting. “It was not approved during our meeting s.”

The council discussed inserting a $100,000 contingency fund in the city’s water and sewer fund at its May meetings for unexpected emergencies such as sewer system operation problems or water line repairs.

Walter said he didn’t agree to a $100,000 contingency for the general fund, which covers a wide range of services, salaries and projects.

But City Treasurer Peggy Brinkman said she inserted the dollar amount into the general fund because it was discussed by the council.

Councilman Barry Armstrong supported Brinkman and said he, too, remembers discussing the $100,000.

Brinkman explained to the council that, if approved, the $100,000 contingency funds allocated in both the general and water/sewer funds would be money earmarked from the city’s escrow account.

She said the $200,000 was not newly generated revenue, but a designation of funds that were already in place in case of emergencies.

“A lot of cities think it’s a good idea to have a reserve,” Brinkman said.

Armstrong agreed, and said that if council members didn’t agree on $100,000, he hoped they could agree on some amount for emergencies that required general fund money.

“It’s just to me good city business to have a contingency fund,” he said at the meeting.

Porter agreed with Walter that he didn’t remember the discussions about the general fund contingency allocation.

“I believe that if I had agreed to it in the city (general) fund I would have remembered,” Porter said.

Walter said he felt uncomfortable allocating $100,000 for an undefined purpose. He said that the contingency fund in the water/sewer budget was allocated specifically for emergencies with the water and sewer system, while the possible uses for general fund contingency were too broad.

“If we’ve got an entire $100,000 laying around, I’d like to see it go to the sewer plant,” Walter said.

The council is set to vote on the budget this evening. However, if council members disagree and major revisions are required, a special meeting will need to be called to pass the budget before July 1.

Public comment on the budget was welcomed at the first reading, but will not be allowed this evening unless special provisions are made to the city’s procedures.

Tonight’s city council meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at the City Hall Annex on Branham Way. The public is welcome.

Other budget highlights include:

* $1.3 million in police department expenditures which include the rapidly increasing rates of retirement and health care.

Other police expenditures include two new police vehicles, additional weaponry for the department, a GPS mapping system for a detective’s vehicle and a pole covert camera to monitor problem areas in the city.

Department officials are also hoping to get an awning to cover at least one of the station’s side entrances to deter heavy roof drainage during rainy periods.

* The city hopes to collect $280,000 from its insurance premium tax agreement with the county. The city currently collects 4 of the possible 5 percent of the total collected tax.