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Not all agree, but city budget OK’d in Buckley

The Buckley City Council approved the city’s 2011 budget by a 4-3 vote during the Nov. 23 meeting.

James Montgomery and Mark McNally voted against the budget because they favored hosting at least one more meeting to better understand the finalized version. Doug Harple objected due to an increase to the cost of utilities for city customers.

Other council members said that they felt there had been enough time studying the budget and it was time to pass it.

“I would like to accept it and get it over with,” Councilwoman Jan Twardoski said. She followed up by saying the council could always amend the budget if issues came up later.

McNally stated his distaste for line items he said he felt were too vague.

“There are 61 line items marked ‘Professional Services’ with no further explanation,” he said. “I have no idea what that money is going to go to. To me, that’s like an open checkbook.”

Councilman Randy Reed, head of the city finance committee, countered that “’professional services” line items represent funds for miscellaneous small purposes that might bog down communication of the budget if they were made more specific.

“I think we as a council and as a city, for lack of a better word, suck at explaining things to the public,” Reed said. “I know what our situation is and... our end fund balance says we will end the year with $3.7 million. The general public may see that and think, ‘Wait a minute, I thought you were strapped for cash.’

“But the budget includes other funds from the general fund, which is what we on the council work with.”

City Administrator Dave Schmidt said the ending fund balance included $70,000 that was not to be touched unless the city needed it.

“I don’t like that we’re here to adopt the budget tonight and we still have questions about line items,” Councilwoman Cristi Boyle-Barrett said.

Harple said he thought the council had managed to go through the budget pretty well, but he still had misgivings about increases to utilities.

“We’re looking at an increase to utilities, water rates are going up 7.2 percent,” Harple said. “I can’t support that. The economy’s bad, people are out of work, and we’re raising their (utilities costs).”

City utilities had to be raised because they are required by law to run in the black, Schmidt said.

“The trouble is, we’re not pulling in enough money as it stands,” he said. “If there’s not enough revenue, we can’t operate the system. It’s like if you have a job that doesn’t pay enough for gas to get there and back. What’s the point of keeping that job?”

The budget included a last minute amendment to projected solid waste expenditures, submitted by Schmidt. The amendment reduced projected solid waste expenditures from $732,928 to $731,192. The changes altered the solid waste expenditures, solid waste end balance, total expenditures and total end balance on four pages of the bill given to council.

In all, the 2011 budget’s projected total expenditures will be $23.5 million and total revenues will be a little more than $27.2 million, with an ending fund balance of $3.7 million.

The 2011 budget is available for public examination at city hall, 933 Main St.

In other action, the council:

• unanimously approved the fire station levy value for 2011, which is set at $298,705, to be collected at a percentage from city residents at a rate appropriate to estimated property valuations.

• unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding extending the city’s contract with union Local 286 Operating Engineers. The approval extends the contracts of 16 employees for one year, and includes a $3,273 health care cost for the city.

• unanimously approved a $20,307 payment to Gray and Osborne for additional engineering work associated with the city water transmission main repair. The city engineer and Fire Chief Alan Predmore reviewed the proposal for work and came to the conclusion that the cost should be able to be reimbursed by a federal grant.

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