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Council fails to pass 2014 Budget PDF Print E-mail
Monday, March 17, 2014 8:17 PM

BY NANCY SPENCER

Herald Editor

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DELPHOS — Delphos is still without a 2014 Budget. City Council on Monday failed to pass the appropriations needed to submit the budget to the county by March 31. The measure failed to pass with four councilman voting “yes” and three voting “no.”

The 2014 full budget includes a General Fund pegged at $2,926,640, with the total appropriations including big-ticket items of water, sewer, and water improvement funds, garbage pick-up, maintenance, hospitalization and others at $14,706,053.

Councilman Del Kemper voted “no” because he was uncomfortable with the police budget and adding two officers when other departments were still on furlough.

Councilmen Jim Fortener and Mark Clement also voted “no” for similar reasons.

During the Finance Committee held after the regular meeting, Interim Safety Service Director Sherryl George and Council President Kim Riddell assured council members that changes could be made to the various line items within funds to address changes made in the future.

The three said they would approve the budget at a special meeting called for 7 p.m. Monday in council chambers.

Council passed on third reading an amended health insurance pass-through to city employees at 50 percent. The ordinance had called for employees to pick up 100 percent of the pass-through. Council previously turned down a 50-percent pass-through in similar legislation in January.

Council also passed on third reading rate hikes for water and sewer usage. The water rate increase is proposed at 3.5-percent, including a 1.5- percent increase for the change in the Consumer Price Index and a 2 percent rate increase approved last year to take effect in the May billing cycle. The sewer rate increase is proposed at 1.5-percent for the Consumer Price Index change and also takes affect in May.

The annual commodities purchasing ordinance was passed on emergency on second reading for the usual purchase by the city yearly of bituminous materials, aggregate products, water meters and other support items utilized annually by various city departments for maintenance applications. Passage of the ordinance is anticipated at the next meeting, as current contracts for such items expire at the end of the month and bid openings are anticipated within as few days.

Elmer Pohlman won the bid to farm six acres of city-owned land more or less located on Shenk Road. Pohlman bid $600 a year for five years. Other bids were $70 per acre and $76 per acre.

Clerk Marsha Mueller read correspondence into the record, including a notice from the Ohio Department of Commerce reminding the city all liquor licenses expire on June 1; a letter from Dr. Bonnie Jones, DVM, to use Leisure Park for the second annual Bark for Life from 1-5 p.m. on June 21; and a request from Jefferson High School to block off Main Street from 6-11:30 p.m. on May 3 for the school’s prom to be held at the Delphos Postal Museum.

Council approved Jones’ request and George said she and Police Chief Kyle Fittro had more to discuss about the closure of Main Street on May 3.

A letter was also read from resident Amy Hale expressing her concern about the hiring of additional police officers, her perception of council’s lack of direction and the upcoming income tax increase on the May Primary Ballot.

Hale’s questions were answered during the Finance Committee meeting.

In other business, George informed council someone would be looking at the speaker system in council chambers for a possible fix and discussed a computer program that could be added to the city’s web site so customers could calculate their water bills.

Council used an executive session to discuss the discipline of an employee and the appointment of personnel. They returned to regular session with no action taken on the matters.

Hale’s Letter —

Council members:

I wanted to write and thank Council Member Andy Knueve for taking the time to talk to me after Monday’s council meeting and to restate some of my thoughts and concerns.

1. I am concerned about the failure of council to provide to me, a constituent, with the numbers that were presented before council that would rationalize the cost, an additional police officer, would add to our city.

2. I am troubled by the lack of direction council is portraying to its citizens.

3. I question council’s mind-set of the proposed tax increase that is to be on the ballot in April.

As to my first point, I find it disconcerting after talking to several council members, in regards to the additional officer in the budget, that I was unable to receive any concrete answer or explanation. (Only weeks ago, the auditor’s numbers for the budget were for ten officers, then at the budget meeting an eleventh officer was added to the budget, without any discussion on the floor). When I asked, for what I thought was a reasonable request, to see the Chief’s numbers as to why an extra officer was needed, I was told that there were none. He did not present a written argument for the validity of this additional burden on our city’s budget, but presented a verbal argument that no council member was able to reiterate to me or give me any notes which were taken during the Chief’s proposal.

There could be a myriad of reasons for the Chief of Police’s request, I just don’t know…. That information was shared behind closed doors and the citizens are unable to obtain it.

Before I can support the tax increase, I would need the basic information and numbers that led council to add an eleventh officer.

It would be beneficial for all constituents, before council’s final vote on the budget, to have the Chief of Police share what he shared behind closed doors.

I cannot in good faith vote again for the tax increase until, like Sheriff Crish, the Delphos Police Chief presents his request before his constituents, followed by a question and answer session and his request can be substantiated and supported by facts and backed by the auditor and board of control, along with council.

I find it troubling that at a time when the city is facing enormous deficits and departmental cuts, that we are adding an additional officer. Let me give an analogy: I need the internet to pay my bills and for my child’s schooling, but if I cannot afford it, I mail my bills and my child goes to the library. Does the Chief’s request substantiate the cost, and how can we know that without information, numbers and reasons? When you are facing the debt that we are facing every department must be at its lowest bottom line.

As to the second point, there still has not been a clear proposal presented to our city as to what will happen if the tax increase is voted up or down. Council’s lack of direction, the constant ping ponging of doing one thing only to undo what they have done at the next meeting, is at a minimum frustrating and challenging to us citizens. It seems that council wants to be noncommittal to any agenda until the tax vote when they may be forced into action.

I also found it upsetting the way council handled the concerns of Mr. Honingford. I saw a frustrated, concerned citizen who had two issues: the limited time to get council’s agenda and concerns that the Mayor made promises to city employees, which is not in his authority. This exchange could have been handled better at both ends, but as a public official, his issues should have been addressed swiftly, courteously, and directly. That would have stopped the escalation of exchange. Elective office requires you to a higher standard and it is a privilege to serve this city. You represent me, and the people of Delphos, and council’s behavior must be professional. What I saw could only be compared to children arguing, council must be above this.

And, to address the third point, the proposed tax increase, I trust council does not view this as a surplus of money to be used to overturn all the savings we have incurred. But that was the impression projected at the meeting and it concerns me deeply. It has put into question my vote on this issue, an issue that I voted for in the past. We are already losing a decent portion of the savings we incurred by centralizing dispatch with the additional cost of a police officer, pension, insurance and all the cost that go with hiring a new city employee. I have concerns about the fiduciary prudency of council. There was talk about rescinding the furloughed employees’ hours, which I personally think would be a good idea because I have seen a loss of service. I would like to see the expense of the eleventh officer, which was estimated at around $60,000, go to our furloughed employees, which was estimated at a cost of $64,000. Or put into an emergency fund, road fund, membrane fund … which benefits our city more?

Again, thanks to Councilman Knueve for giving so generously of his time to listen to my concerns. I look forward to the prospect of a presentation by the police chief, and to future productive dialogue from council and our citizens in an endeavor to help move our city forward.

Amy Hale

Delphos

Last Updated on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 7:59 PM
 

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