Agendas and Minutes

Citizens' Budget Committee (View All)

Citizens' Budget Committee Meeting #3 Minutes BN 21-23

Agenda
Tuesday, April 27, 2021

BUDGET COMMITTEE MEETING
MINUTES
April 27, 2021
Meeting conducted via Zoom
(Meeting recording can be watched here or by going to https://videoplayer.telvue.com/player/w9sPsSE7vna3XTN_39bs1rEXjVWF0kfP/media/637527?fullscreen=false&showtabssearch=true&autostart=true, timestamps are also noted in these minutes) 

Chair Shane Hunter called the meeting to order at 3:00 p.m. via online meeting on Zoom
 
ROLL CALL 
 
Present:        
Councilor Paula Hyatt Ellen Alphonso
Councilor Stephen Jensen Jim Bachman
Councilor Shaun Moran Shane Hunter
Councilor Gina DuQuenne Bob Kaplan
Councilor Tonya Graham
(Arrived at 3:01 p.m.)
Mike Morris
Councilor Stefani Seffinger
(Arrived at 3:05 p.m., returned late from break)
Saladin Amery
(Arrived at 3:06 p.m.)
Mayor Julie Akins
(Left Meeting at 3:15 p.m.,                 Returned to meeting at 4:15 p.m. returned late from break)
David Runkel
 
Absent:  None
 
COMMITTEE CHAIR ANNOUNCEMENTS
Hunter discussed with the Committee the meeting format and schedule. Hunter also reminded those who have volunteered to be on the Grants Subcommittee to follow up on their availability for the meeting via doodle.
 
Hunter added that there would be a presentation of the Parks Commission at the May 11th meeting of the Committee and questions of the Parks Commission could be asked at that time.
 
APPROVAL OF MINUTES 
Hyatt/Alphonso m/s to move approval of the April 13, 2021 meeting minutes as presented. DISCUSSION: None, Voice Vote All in Favor, Motion Approved
 
DISCUSSION OF ADDITIONAL MEETING
Hunter began a discussion of the possibility of adding another meeting to the Committee Meeting schedule considering that additional time was needed because of the presentation by the Parks Commission at the May 11th Committee meeting. He provided an additional day of May 14, 2021 as a day to add a meeting.  Ellen Alphonso, Committee Member suggested that time not in the morning be chosen due to work schedules.
 
Bachman/Jensen m/s to move for the Committee to meet from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Friday, May 14th, 2021 DISCUSSION: None, Voice Vote All in Favor, Motion Approved
 
PUBLIC FORUM
Written Testimony Submitted By (See attached): No discussion from the Committee.
 
Oral Testimony Given-
Hunter introduced speaker noting that she had 3 minutes to speak to the committee.
 
Leda Shapiro began by explaining that she was new to Ashland but had done research prior to moving here. Her background she noted was in Financial Management and that she had looked at budget information during her move to Ashland but that at that time there was more information available online. She then explained what she was used to seeing and how notes are made on assumptions between new and old budgets. She also expressed that she expected to see an adjustment made related to COVID but that she did not see one, as tourism is a revenue source for the City. She added that a detailed budget is really needed online to allow for the Committee to see where cuts can be made. She suggested looking at an item like PERS as it is the biggest line item and that thought should be given to employees paying their portion not the City. She ended by reiterating that line items and details are needed for the Committee to look at, as she is surprised at how a budget could be done without this information.
 
PROPRIETARY FUNDS PRESENTATION             (Time Stamp 00:11:19)
 
Melanie Purcell, Finance Director presented to the Committee on Proprietary Funds (See attached). Purcell began by looking at what Proprietary Funds are. These she explained were the Enterprise Funds and Internal Service Funds. She further shared that the enterprise funds include Water, Wastewater, Electric, Stormwater, and Telecommunications explaining what each one was and how it works. She then explained that many of the enterprise funds are supported by Utility Rates and how rates are determined as well as looking at local comparables. Next Purcell explained franchise fees, how they are charged, and the thought given to funding stabilization and rate relief. Next Purcell presented on the Enterprise Fund expenditures including changes to personnel services, and materials and services. She then explained sources, uses, challenges, opportunities, changes in service current and in the future of funds for Water, as well as its expenses and revenues by type.
 
Councilor Paula Hyatt spoke to the franchise fee overview and asked since it seemed that franchise fees were escalating over the years, what the max goal for Water would be. Purcell responded that it is intended to go to 50% and stay at this level with a goal to codify this in ordnance so it remains there. City Manager Pro Tem, Adam Hanks added that a conversation in future years would look at what is needing to be accomplished is being done. Conversations although they are ongoing have noted that the General Fund may not be able to handle more than 50%, he added. He further noted as capital that is behind is caught up on, this will need to be looked at. 
 
Committee Member David Runkel spoke to increases of $7 million in expenditures as he noted were on pages 71, 143 and 144 of the proposed budget. He asked Purcell if she could explain specifically increases in Water Supply of $3 million, the $800,000 increase in Water Treatment and the $1.4 million in Water Distribution. Purcell pointed the Committee to the presentation and a graph that explained that a majority of the increases is capital with an emphasis on dam repair, transmission line repairs and the water plant which has multi-year costs. She added that there will not be changes to materials and services and that the staff change will not be a service charge but a direct cost. Overall, she further explained the costs have not changed just the classification. Runkel further asked about the numbers in the budget document which show an increase in materials and services of $650,000. Purcell responded that this is directly related to the increases in chemical and petroleum products, as well as the change from Central service. She also added that there was an increase in insurance to all the Operating Funds, as well as Fleet increases, which allowed for the costs to be fully charged out from the Central Service funds. This she said allowed for there to be no disparity between the cost allocation plan and the actual charges, which almost all departments saw fluctuations in.  Runkel then asked about Water Treatment on page 144 of the proposed budget and the increase of over $800,000, as well as Water Materials and Services which is up $650,000 which he could not reconcile. Purcell responded that most of the increases in Materials and Services is chemicals. He further asked about the increase of $1.4 million in Distribution and what this cost was, to which Purcell stated was related to the Capital in the lines. Runkel clarified that costs for line improvements would not be borrowed, to which Purcell responded to as no, as this is a part of operations.
 
Councilor Shaun Moran asked about charges to Materials and Services on page 71 of the proposed budget, which he noted were answered in the previous conversation with Runkel. He then specifically asked about increases to Personnel Services. In the 2019-20 budget to the 2021-22 budget an increase of 17-18% is noted. He further questioned what accounts for this increase as no hiring is taking place. Purcell answered that this was the shift from Central Services to a direct allocation of the program manager, which she added is a clearer process. He then stated that there was an assumption that a $40 million Water treatment plant will go forward, but that with the fiscal realities of the budget there may be an option to fix the present plant at $9 million. He asked how this would impact projections for the ending fund balance and other items. He further asked Purcell if any numbers had been ran for this. Purcell stated she has not run numbers, but what would happen would be revenues and expenditures would drop. Moran clarified that he was looking to see what impact this type of change would have on Water in general in items such as the ending fund balance. Based on her understanding Purcell responded this would not have an impact on ending fund balance of daily operating costs but that some costs would be impacted when there was a change for compliance, but staff would not be impacted. Hanks added that if Council was to make a vote to step in a different direction that information would be provided, as this type of scenario planning is not part of a recommended budget. Prior Council decisions have allowed for this project to move forward he added and that is why this information has been added to this budget.
 
Committee Member Saladin Amery explained that he was confused looking at the new Wastewater Treatment Plant as other options like fixing it or tying into Medford’s system should have been explored. Hanks responded that first what was being talked about previously is in regard to the Water Treatment Plant and second some analysis has been done which is not in the budget document as it was done prior. Amery asked if this could be shared with Council so they could see if a new Wastewater Treatment plant was the way to go. Hanks again clarified that this is a decision regarding the Water Treatment plant and that the budget reflects decisions that have already been made by Council previously. Council he explained has decided to move forward with the construction of a new plant, but Council could amend this and go a different direction and the budget would be amended to match Council’s decisions.
 
Councilor Gina DuQuenne spoke that she understands that this is the budget process but that she believes that the Water Treatment plant can be fixed at a lower price that will last for another 20 years. As the City is in a different situation when this was approved, she believes it would be good to look at all the options before a budget is approved, as there is such a large deficit. Purcell noted two items the first being that Council can change whatever they wish and that if they change the direction the budget will change with it as the financials but reflect Council decisions. The second item that Purcell spoke to was that if the Budget Committee wishes to recommended Council that changes be made to the water fund that is fine. The budget would then be amended at that time. She then added it is not best practice for a known topic of conversations to not be acknowledged when it has policy decisions. If the Committee feels strongly that a recommendation is needed to make changes, she added then those can be taken to Council, this will require that the City Council take additional actions particularly in year two and staff will respond accordingly. Hanks added that this is the City Managers recommended budget which considers what the City Manager has been directed to do by Council to date. Runkel further asked if there had been a vote by the Council regarding the Water Treatment plant. Hanks responded that there had been several. 
 
Councilor Tonya Graham added that it would be helpful to keep in mind that having a capital expenditure in the budget doesn’t mean that it is required to be spent if the Council decided to go in a different direction. Allocations she explained are based on the decisions that have been made up to this point but does not obligate the money to be spent this way.
 
Committee Member Bob Kaplan asked about the proposed rates. He asked about the rates in relation to the policy changes to ending fund balance. He then asked if these are based on studies and if these reflect unintended issues. Purcell responded that these are based on Bonneville Power Administration Rates and that the hope would be that there will be some rate relief but that even with this it would not bring the City up to the policy level, as this would take two years. She further added that this however would allow for time to use the debt issuance to purchase the substation which would free the City from the issues that surround this volatile cost. Water and Wastewater will still be within policy even with rates held flat for the first year. In the second year she explained there will be pressure to meet policy, but this would depend on the debt structure. Purcell then noted that a rate evaluation will come back to Council mid-cycle. Hanks added that a very in-depth cost of service study for Electric took place that looked at rates and this included a look at customer classes and how the rate structure is applied. A suggestion was made he added in this study to look at debt funding. This studies implementation he explained is similar to a master plan with small changes that need to take place along the way. 
 
Moran went on to state that when it came to rates in the water fund there was only rate relief in the first year and that Wastewater rates were zero over the two years because the City moved $1.4 million from the Wastewater Fund and the decision was then made not to pay this back, but rate payers have already paid. He went on to say that electric is counting at 4.5% and stormwater 9%. In the CIP master plan that is over the next 8 years, rates will go up by 75% he added.  He asked if there were other reductions in rates. Hanks responded that Moran had captured all these, however what took place in year two of the current biennium was not noted. Most rates he noted were at a zero percent increase, which was not planned or budgeted for. Generally, he explained rates are about capital. Many of the adjustments that are made to rates are the decision of Council, but these rates are not likely to go down he also stated.   Moran responded that there is a lot of emphasis put on the affordability of Ashland and the presented budget is only really giving rate relief in the first year with their water bills. He believes that this is a function of the Capital Improvement Plan.
 
Purcell went on to present to the Committee on the Wastewater Fund including its sources, uses, challenges, opportunities, and changes in service. She further presented on the revenues and expenses by type (See attached) (Time Stamp 00:56:00).
 
Runkel stated that on pages 145 and 146 of the proposed budgets there is a $5.7 million increase in the operating costs. He asked if this was due to a shift in the way personnel is counted. He further commented that there was an increase in spending in both Water and Wastewater due to Capital Projects with it all being done at the same time. He asked if consideration has been made as to why projects were being done at the same time. He expressed concern for this and the effect it will have and suggested that projects be spread-out. Hanks explained that the timeline for these is not always known, as permits are needed for much of this work. He also added that these are two separate funds with different debt structures, and these will not spike rates to the community as they are happening at the same time. Purcell reiterated that the permitting is something of the State and the City is dependent on this. She also explained that funding is coming in the future in the way of Grants for mandated items and with that an adopted plan must be ready. Many times, debt is bundled where it can be to have less impacts on infrastructure and the best access to the market. This is the reason she explained that there is a certain level that bonds are gone after, as it would be too expensive to access the debt if not. In Wastewater in particular state loans have also been able to be accessed in order which is one factor that comes into play she added. She ended by noting that the approval of these projects comes back to Council for approval many times in the form of contract approval and other steps along the way and the hope is to minimize the impact to rate payers over time with this type of debt.  Runkel furthered asked if staff were available to supervise these projects. Purcell responded that yes there was staff available.
 
Hanks further added that steps are being made to reduce costs with the disposal of sludge.
 
Moran added that he had suggested while on Council that Rogue Valley Sanitation come and present to Council. He added that it was agreed previously that this be discussed after the budget process. His question to this was how much of the $11 million listed is regulatory driven and if it would be best to wait to hear from Rogue Valley Sanitation. Hanks responded and reiterated Grahams point that because an item is in the budget it is not an obligation to spend. He added that the CIP categorizes projects across many different categories and with this the item that are considered regulatory are listed as such in the CIP document. He went on to say that connecting to a regional system is a long and big discussion were a lot of analysis has to be done and that using this system is only for the treatment of the system and would not look at the collection. This he explained that capital for this project would come at a great cost and would take years to make work functionally.
 
Amery asked Purcell about the State grants and loans toward the Wastewater Treatment Plant and if there are restrictions on these or if loans of this nature could be given to fix the current plan or tie into the regional system. Purcell responded by saying that many of these loans are project specific. She further clarified that projects listed with Wastewater fund are for repairs and updates not replacement. The project would have to be approved she stated as funds are not discretionary. Hanks also added that given the elements needed to be completed that it would be a push to get there by 2024. Amery responded that he understands this, but he is looking at this from a budget perspective as the City is in a new reality. He suggested that the City is earning less and that Citizens are not making as much as they used to and that it may not be prudent to make plans to spend like this as the City will be deeper in the red in the future. Hanks added that his thought was that was what was being done and that the conversation needs to be had around areas where they don’t have choices, as many of these projects are regulatory driven. Amery then asked if these were regulatory to which Hanks stated the projects help to meet Federal regulations.
 
Hanks responded to Amery’s comments regarding a drop in revenues of 56% stating that there have been two main areas were revenues have dropped. These he said were in the Lodging Tax which was a 3% to 4% in the General Fund and the Food and Beverage Tax which goes to Parks and Wastewater debt. The Food and Beverage Tax loss in revenue was made up for with a slowdown in Streets projects while still maintaining the Wastewater Debt. Other areas he stated have only flattened and did not occur in Enterprise Funds.
 
Amery stated he was confused that it was being said that the budget was balanced as page 18 of the proposed budget states that there as a deficit of around $2 million and that a onetime 4.3 million payment was going to be used to pay this off and buffer so cuts be made could be absorbed. But looking further in 3 to 4 years’ time he explained as detailed on page 18 the City would be looking at a $4 million deficit. Purcell responded that this was a matter of terms and that what was being presented to the Committee is a legally balanced budget. This budget she stated has the use of fund balance to offset that operating revenues do not meet operating expenses. The budget she added is balanced on the premises that Council get into the policy of what should be done from here, as staff has been clear that this cannot be maintained. The Enterprise Funds are in good shape she explained but they need attention given the amount of Capital demands upon them. Noting that the committee sees the budget does not look bright for the future the Committee can make suggestion to Council on where to concentrate their efforts for the next six to eighteen months.
 
Councilor Stephen Jensen responded to Moran’s comments on the Rogue Valley Sewer System stating that Council had specifically asked staff not to bring this back for consideration until after the budget process was complete. Council then will vote on whether to consider further analysis. Moran responded that he did not think this was true and that this could be addressed at the City Council level.
 
Graham asked that the person who is speaking be allowed to do so without interruptions so that Hunter can run the meeting appropriately.
 
Alphonso stated that what she thought the Committee was struggling with was how to encourage a more sustainable and fiscally responsive environment for Ashland in the future. Some of these she added takes place on the Council level but as Citizen members of the Committee they hear it from their neighbors and from themselves that the strategies that have been used for operations need to change.
 
Purcell further clarified the role of the Citizens’ Budget Committee and that recommendations of focused areas by Council can be made.
 
Mayor Julie Akins thanked the Committee for their input and clarity. She also explained that she believes hearing this frustration helps Council keep a pulse on things and do their jobs better when it comes to policy decisions.
 
Hunter called the meeting into a break at 4:26 p.m. and asked the Committee to resume its meeting at 4:36 p.m.
 
Hunter called the meeting back into order at 4:36 p.m. and asked Purcell to begin presenting on the Stormwater Fund.
 
Purcell presented to the committee on the Stormwater fund including its sources, uses, challenges, opportunities, and changes in service. She further presented on the revenues and expenses by type (See attached) (Time Stamp 01:36:45).
 
Hunter asked about the near $800,000 in operating revenue with the operating expenses being close to $1 million. Purcell explained the use of drawing down ending fund balance and using funding from the current year for ongoing projects. Hunter asked if the plan was to make sure that these two align. Purcell responded that this was the plan and that this fund is under review. Hanks added that on the regulatory side it is growing fast with proactive work being added recently. He added that Rogue Valley Sewer is a likely partner within the Stormwater area as well.
 
Purcell presented to the committee on the Electric fund including its sources, uses,
challenges, opportunities, and changes in service. She further presented on the revenues and expenses by type (See attached) (Time Stamp 01:42:36).
 
Kaplan asked about City assistance that is offered for low income rate payers. He stated that he thought the amount was around $100,000 and asked for further information on the evolution of the Ashland Low Income Energy Assistance Program. Purcell explained that they have seen an increase in funding for assistance like this to third party organizations, as the City cannot receive or distribute this type of funding. There has been a push she added for the federal government to release such funding to local governments. Bryn Morrison, Financial Systems Manager began explaining the program by stating that there are different programs within this including the Ashland Low Income Energy Assistance Program which is a wintertime assistance program with assistance dependent on income level. There is also a year-round senior and disabled low income program, which is applied to the entire bill except for internet. This program she added is also based on income level. Hanks added that the allocation for this is typically budgeted but the City has never capped it and has gone over budget as the numbers have fluctuated from year to year. Morrison also added information on the timeline to apply for these funds.
 
Runkel spoke to a $6 million increase he saw. The substantial increase he saw was within personnel, which he asked what the reason for was. Purcell explained that first although there is a vacancy, they budget for full staffing, and second there is a contractual obligation for a market adjustment.
 
DuQuenne asked when the contract was up for Bonneville Power Administration. Hanks responded that this is a 20-year contract and it is up in 2028. Staff are currently working with other organizations and contract options should be available around 2025. Updates will be given for Council review he added and more options for contract may be given for the future. He also added that a look at other power to buy may also be an option.
 
Akins asked about the low-income assistance program and what the threshold of income there was for Seniors as she believes it is hard for people to qualify. She also asked about the comments made regarding the difficulty in hiring staff and if because of this if any of the functions within the Electric Department can be outsourced. Morrison responded that the Senior discount was 125% or 100% of the Federal poverty level with a 20% or 30% discount applied at each level. Hanks answering the second question responded that some limited jobs can be outsourced. There could also be a look at selling the utility, but this has policy implications with serious conversation that would need to have, he added. Thought could be given to lower utility rates; however, the City has been cost competitive with Pacific Power.
 
Moran spoke to the Personnel Services increases, as he was confused that there were no new positions, yet staff had stated they were trying to hire. Purcell responded that they are filling a vacated position. He further clarified that this person was included in the 2017-19 Budget. To which Purcell responded yes. Moran also spoke to the placement of Climate Energy Action Plan staff within the Electric Fund and Conservation Staff as well. Hanks responded that yes staff are within this fund. Moran then asked how many people are in the Electric fund. Staff would get back to them on this he responded.
 
Hanks offered more information about the purchase of the substation and its project timing. He stated that he has been in conversations regarding this for over 10 years as negotiations have been close and sometimes not so close. He added that the current Electrical Director, Tom McBartlett has done excellent work to get this project moved forward and would allow for additional benefits that are not within the line item. One of these items he stated was the growth in electrification and another would be a payoff in around seven years.
 
Purcell then responded to Moran’s questions that there are 18.5 FTE in the Electric Fund.
 
Purcell presented to the committee on the Telecommunications fund including its sources, uses, challenges, opportunities, and changes in service. She further presented on the revenues and expenses by type (See attached) (Time Stamp 02:03:28).
 
Amery spoke to his time looking at Ashland Fiber Network in 2017 and at that time the question was asked on how this could possibly grow and compete with large companies. He referenced the outstanding debt at $5 million and its profit as he believes the market for Ashland Fiber Network is capped. He wonders what the future for Ashland Fiber Network was. Hanks responded that he was right but with its profit it does pay the debt share and that a conversation at the Council level should be had. There are he added different ways of looking at the profit. Amery questioned if the debt service for Ashland Fiber Network was at a certain amount and the profit being made was lower how they could be covering their portion of the debt service. Hanks explained that other utility funds help pay for this. Amery concluded that it if more money is being allocated for Ashland Fiber Network then there should be a way to get it back.
 
DuQuenne added that she appreciated Amery’s questions.
 
Graham asked about the avoided costs at the City in relation to not having to use another internet provider and asked if any research had been done to explore such costs. Hanks responded that many systems do rely on AFN include some on the infrastructure side and there is some rationale for the way the charges are setup to pay for the debt service. He added that there are also community assets that are also housed within AFN. Decisions he added need to be made as the age of the equipment is changing and becoming outdated, he also explained some of these options.
 
Moran asked who the Department Head for AFN was to which Hanks responded that it was him. Moran stated that this should be looked at like a business, and that looking at page 82 referencing personnel service and knowing that the City is in a crisis he sees a 39% increase in the line item. He asked what this accounted for. Hanks responded that employees in Ashland Fiber Network are part of the IBEW union and changes in the Deputy Manager Position. Purcell responded that she would like to come back with a more specific detailed look. Moran reference back to the increases and added that from a business standpoint for a fund that is not making a profit an increase in personnel services is something that needs to be looked at. He further commented that assumptions are being stated that the growth will be seen, but with factors such as aging equipment and competitors he would like to know how this can happen.  Purcell responded that this would go along with materials and supplies as they are expecting a continuation of the market. Moran then questioned the profit and the debt service and details on page 199-201. Purcell responded that the debt was $4.7 million over the next 5 years. She added that the debt is not all funded by Telecommunications and suggested looking at the complete contribution of the debt service which she would get to the Committee. Hanks also added that this level of debt is being operated as it has been since approved by Council.
 
Hyatt added that this is an area where there is a policy decision and that she welcomes input from the Budget Committee. She added that as technology progresses it becomes obsolete and maintenance and investment costs go up. She also added that as previously mentioned there is a need to make a list of recommendations associated with the budget as it is brought forward. She asked the committee how they could start making such a list so that it can go back and inform the decisions of the Council. Hunter explained what a process like this would look like.
 
Graham spoke to her understanding that Ashland Fiber Network was never created to make money and that she looks forward to a community conversation around this. She also added that many communities are looking to build something similar and there is potential to this system being important as work from home options for community have become greater. She added that speaking to Hyatt’s point that this is a great place to start this conversation with Council.
 
Jensen suggested a deep dive by Council as this was not the form to do so with this committee meeting.
 
Amery agreed that a deep dive into this needs to take place. He asked that prior to Council talking about this that they get a breakdown of the numbers and nonnumbered related benefits to Ashland Fiber Network.
 
Mike Morris, Committee Member commented that one of the frustrations has been that they do not have a firm set of Council goals and what they want to do. Knowing this, all the Committee can do is look at dollars and cents, he said adding that the conversation of goals needs to be an offline discussion out of the budget process.
 
Akins added that it was understood that Ashland Fiber Network has not been built out to serve the entire City of Ashland, which she added effects for the ability for a good return on investment. She added that this goes along with the conversation of outsourcing as more dialogue in regard to Ashland Fiber Network is to be had regarding this and keeping up with technology. Hanks added that the information on the build out was correct that the build out is a 92% and what is left is pretty expensive places.
 
Moran asked what percentage AFN was built out and Hanks responded that it was about 92%. He also asked if this means that 92% of Ashland can use AFN. Hanks went on to say that yes, but it was a bit more complicated than that, but it was right around there.  He then asked if the second part that include the Information Technology Department would be a part of this conversation. Purcell responded that this is part of the General Fund not a part of the Enterprise Funds. Moran stated that he asked if this was going to be covered in this meeting during the last meeting. Purcell responded that it was discussed in the general fund and what had been asked about was AFN, which was a part of what was being discussed during the current meeting.
 
Tonya Graham asked due to time if the meeting could move forward.
 
Purcell presented to the committee on the Internal Services which includes the City & Parks equipment funds, health insurance fund, and insurance fund. Further discussed was its sources, uses, challenges, opportunities, and changes in service. She further presented on the revenues and expenses by type (See attached) (Time Stamp 02:32:26).
 
Purcell ended her presentation to the committee by explaining the steps looking forward. (See attached) (Time Stamp 02:40:00).
 
Runkel asked about how the committee will proceed. He went on to say that in past budget meetings he has made recommendations for specific cuts in certain areas with a redirected of money to other things. He then asked with the change in the form of government if it would make sense to go forward with a proposal that would set a general fund figure and that the City Manager would then have to work within. He asked further for clarification from City Attorney David Lohman.  He then went on to explain that if the general fund figure is $38 million dollars or something like it, would a motion to move it $36 million be appropriate. Lohman responded that he had to think about this, but his instinct would be that that is an appropriate motion and that is within the Budget Committee’s purview. He also added that this would also include significant policy changes, that are beyond the authority of a City Manager.
 
Hunter explained that in the past suggestions and scenarios were presented to staff and input was asked for. Hunter then asked what it would look like if there was a hiring freeze. Purcell said that in general it would not look much different then what is taking place now, as vacated positions are held to high scrutiny as to if they are essential. With Police and Fire these are eased up on, as the cuts in police came from unfilled positions.
 
Hanks added that on the side of motions, as Runkel suggested, it would be helpful for the proposer to recommend both the reduction on the expenditure and the revenue. So that staff can get a sense of what is being accomplished and answer if these are hitting at what is being talked about.
 
Moran asked about presenting ideas and Amery suggested sending these suggestions to Purcell earlier, so she had time to respond.
 
Moran then asked the previous budget with 258 FTE’s with 243 being in this budget. Looking at the average cost per employee being $140,000 in the last budget, with less FTE’s this budget and no new hires he asked where the cost saving would be. Purcell stated this falls to ending fund balance. He then asked if this money was not being saved then to hire for back filled positions. Hanks then added that with COVID the FTE position count was 231 for a time, so there was a combination of savings in these budgets.
 
Councilor Stefani Seffinger stated that this has been a very sobering discussion as life has changed in regards to the quality of life issues that were important to Council. She added that Council was running out of money to do many of these things and that she sees the need of a deep dive with help from the Budget Committee.  Things like the Fire and Pandemic have caused for priorities to be looked at.
 
Jensen thanks Purcell and Hanks for their work on the budget and presentations.
 
Hunter reminded the Committee to send any suggestions and scenarios to Purcell and Hanks and reminded the Committee to include intent in these.
 
Purcell also spoke to the Grants Subcommittee meeting and Vice Chair Jim Bachman suggested that this be approved in the May 11th meeting of the Committee.
 
ADJOURNMENT
 
Bachman/Alphonso motioned/seconded the adjournment of the meeting. Discussion: None. Voice Vote Approved. Meeting adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
 
Respectfully submitted,                                                                                                     
Natalie Thomason
Administrative Assistant
 
 
 

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