I actually voted against my own motion (which Councilman Short would not allow me to amend), because I was made aware that my proposed increase for the city’s [taxpayer] contribution to the volunteer fire department [VFD] (22% over last year) would have resulted in an eleven thousand dollar deficit to the total final budget amount.
Despite the fact that we were approving the annual fiscal budget, neither the city’s accountant nor attorney were present for the meeting, which, despite my efforts (I’m not an accountant), made it impossible for me to figure out why the spreadsheet I had been using throughout the budget process wasn’t adding up.
Before the vote was completed, I made clear to everyone that I would immediately make another motion which would correct my clerical error with a 20% increase over last year to city’s [taxpayer] contribution for the VFD, which would result in a balanced budget!
I never got the chance to make that corrected motion, however!
Instead, Councilman Orchard moved to approve the budget unamended as proposed, which leaves the city with a $66,997 deficit. The motion passed 3 to 2, where Councilman Klutts and I voted against it.
Had the council adopted a balanced budget, I was willing to vote for the current tax rate (the only other option was to lower it). However, since the state has established that maintaining an existing tax rate when property assessments increase, is the equivalent of a tax increase (a fact for which I was unaware when I ran for city council), I wasn’t willing to support the current rate, just to bolster increased spending without the consent of the people.
Councilman Klutts and I lost that vote too.
In defense of the Council majority, this deficit equates to the surplus from this previous year, but it’s still a deficit.
It came because the VFD requested, and is receiving, a 47% increase over last year’s city contribution (the VFD is independent of the city and covers other jurisdictions where roughly half of the VFD’s calls are outside the city) which amounts to an additional $103,089, for a total contribution by city taxpayers of $320,650. This amounts to 26% of the city’s entire budget.
Though well over half the VFD’s geographic jurisdiction falls outside of the city limits, ninety percent of this year’s budget for the VFD is funded by taxpayers who live INSIDE the city (this percentage includes half of $67,500 from the county given through a “government grant”…which is taxpayer dollars).
Councilman Klutts and I were advocating to first approve a balanced budget, which would allow time for the city to conduct a citizens survey so that taxpayers can weigh in and provide direct support or opposition to dipping into the reserve funds to increase VFD funding. However, Council-members Orchard, Short, and Lovell disagreed.
Increasing the city’s annual contribution may be a good and worthy use of last year’s budget surplus, especially since the city provides no other services to the community, but ONLY IF it is given with the consent of taxpayers.
NOTE. Over the past two years, the Council has voted to increased the city’s contribution to the VFD (100% increase in 2015, 91% increase in 2016) without submitting any projections for an increase the following year. In fact, this year we’ve been told only that next year they will be requesting more.