A more in-depth story about the Dec. 27 meeting will be published in the Jan. 4 edition of the Courier-Herald.
Black Diamond residents can rest easy knowing that their city will not shut down in January.
In a 5-0 vote, the council managed to pass an emergency budget ordinance, allowing the budget for 2017 to go into effect starting Jan. 1, 2017.
But the compromise between the council majority, which wanted to pass a heavily amended budget, and the mayor, who aimed to pass her own budget, didn’t come without its caveats.
First, the budget is a stop-gap measure, only funding the city through March 31, 2017.
This was a compromise suggested by Mayor Carol Benson and City Attorney Mike Kenyon of the Kenyon Disend law firm, in order to allow Councilman Brian Weber three months to explain his budget amendments and let them stand legal, staff and public scrutiny.
Second, the majority council – consisting of council members Pat Pepper, Erika Morgan and Weber – were concerned that Benson would spend most of the city’s budget in the first three months, in an attempt to pull the rug out from under the proposed budget amendments.
Benson suggested the budget ordinance be amended to allow only 25 percent of the budget’s expenditures to be spent between January and March, with exception given to budget items that must be paid for more upfront, like a new fire engine for the fire department.
The amendment was welcomed by the majority council.
Finally, the majority council also moved to add an amendment saying that all contracts, starting in January, must come before the council for approval before the mayor can sign them.
It was clear that without this amendment – because an emergency ordinance requires a supermajority vote – the budget ordinance would not pass.
Kenyon said the amendment could cause issues with the council, because it clashed with the Black Diamond Municipal Code, which allows the mayor to sign contracts of $15,000 or less without council approval.
Even so, the amendment was approved by the council 3-2 and added to the budget ordinance, which was welcomed by a past-capacity audience with enthusiastic applause.