One member of London City Council is proposing council revisit the 2016 budget, saying $337,000 in deficit spending was “not something I could quite stomach.”
Councilman Trint Hatt, who does not sit on the council’s finance committee, suggested during Thursday’s council meeting that council trim 2 percent from each department. He calculates the cut would decrease the budget’s deficit spending $87,000 to about $250,000.
“It was a huge issue for me,” Hatt told the Press this week. “The taxpayers expect us to live within our means as a city.”
The police department will take the biggest hit — about $42,000 — because it is the largest budget in the general fund, Hatt noted.
“I’ve had conversations with Chief (David) Wiseman and he has confidence he can work within that budget,” he said.
Hatt said it will be up to each of the department heads to decide how to cut the 2 percent.
“I don’t want to micromanage the departments,” he said. “I have full trust they will work within their budgets.”
Hatt said he disagrees with the way the budgeting process is done. Currently, the budget is provided to council by Auditor Katie Hensel, and based off of last year’s numbers.
Instead, it should be the administration’s responsibility, he said.
“Katie should just be giving us the numbers,” Hatt added. “The administration should be giving us the budget.”
As opposed to basing the budget off of last year’s figures, the budget should be completed using a method known as zero-based budgeting, in which all expenses must be justified for each new period, and every function within the city is analyzed for its needs and costs.
“If you have a pool of $4 million your budget should be $4 million,” he said.
As the budget currently stands, the city is projecting about $3.86 million in income next year compared to $4.198 million in spending.
The 2015 budget included deficit spending of $260,000 — about $87,000 less than the current proposed budget.
Finance chairman Rex Castle has attributed budget increases to jumps in health insurance, workers’ compensation and two planned retirements in the police department, among other items.
Following Hatt’s suggestion, auditor Hensel on Thursday cautioned members to remember not every part of the budget can be cut by 2 percent.
“You can’t not pay your debt service or pension,” she cautioned. “I won’t be here to help, so you need to be really diligent if you’re making that change last minute.”
Council is expect to vote on the budget Dec. 3 during the legislation’s third reading and public hearing.
“I’m glad we got this moved in the right direction. Even though to the public $250,000 over is high, it’s justifiable,” Hatt said. “I hope we can move forward to change the budgeting process and the new administration will have a plan.”
In other business at Thursday’s meeting:
• Council approved an ordinance to enact salary ranges for department heads and non-union employees, beginning in 2016. Currently, salaries are set at one rate, and do not account for experience or skill, said councilman Jason Schwaderer, who sponsored the legislation. The proposed maximum figure is the current salary, plus 3 percent. The proposed minimum figure is 20 percent less than the maximum.
• Council met in executive session to discuss contracts and personnel. Safety-service director Steve Hume and Joe Mosier, who will take on Hume’s position next year, were invited into the meeting. No action was taken.
• A public hearing will be held at council’s Dec. 17 meeting regarding a change on zoning code. The amendments “clean up the code,” according to councilman Roger Morris, who sponsored the legislation. Among the changes are allowing larger signs for businesses.
Reach Andrea Chaffin at 740-852-1616 and on Twitter @AndeeWrites.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU