The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

February 18, 2014

City moves forward with budget reductions

By Amy Kent
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — Clinton city leaders have come up with a solution to balance a $134,509 deficit in the general fund budget and it does not come at the expense of cutting personnel to the city’s emergency services.

On Monday, City Council members were met at the city’s final budget work session by community protesters who opposed a suggestion to cut funding to the police and fire departments that would have resulted in each department losing up to three full-time positions, a suggestion that some council members felt was taken out of context.

“I was very disappointed in the Mayor’s (Mark Vulich) two interviews over the weekend, where he used scenario two (cutting personnel) repeatedly to talk about these cuts to the budget,” At-Large Councilman John Rowland said. “Scenario two was never adopted, approved or even recommended by the council. It was just as it says it was. It was a scenario. There was also a scenario one, three and four. I don’t know if it was an honest mistake on his part or if it was just a bad choice but it did cause a lot of angst in the community. I hope that doesn’t happen again, especially with issues that the council hasn’t formally adopted.”

To avoid making the personnel cuts that were discussed at a budget work session last week, City Administrator Jessica Kinser, City Finance Director Anita Dalton and the city’s department heads, including Fire Chief Mike Brown and Police Chief Brian Guy, came up with an extensive proposal that would spread the cuts throughout the general fund, a proposal the council adopted on Monday with a 6-1 vote.

The only negative vote for the proposed budget cuts came from At-Large Councilman Tom Determann, who felt a $2,000 cut to the city’s human resources department for training, meeting and conference purposes would be detrimental to a service that already lacked efficiency.

“With all of our problems it just seems like this is where the council made the commitment to this position and to cut funds for it seems very short-sighted, very short-sighted,” Determann said. “I think it’s paramount to a lot of the problems the city’s had, of lack of training. I would offer that we could take it out of the contingency fund. That’s how important I think it is.”

However, lack of support from the council for Determann’s motion to keep the $2,000 in the human resources training budget kept the cut in the final proposal.

With the council’s approval of the $134,509 worth of budget cuts, $40,783 will come from the Clinton Public Library’s decision to close the Lyons branch, $40,310 from the reduction of an administrative specialist in the city attorney’s department, along with a series of other budget cuts to a variety of departments to make up the difference.

The one budget cut that was not approved by the council Monday was a $4,000 cut to an $8,000 budget that funds business trips, conferences and meetings for the Mayor and City Council.

A motion presented by Determann to keep the $4,000 in the budget passed the council 4-3, because members felt the Mayor and council’s budget was essential to marketing the city to potential investors and economic development opportunities.

“I don’t think $8,000 is anywhere near even enough to start with,” Determann said. “We’ve got a mayor that needs to attend certain functions out of town, not only needs to, we should encourage it. That’s what’s going to get this town up by the bootstraps.”

In addition to Monday’s approval of the proposed budget cuts, the council also approved the operations budgets for the city’s road use tax fund, transit operations and marina operations.

While council members also passed the sewer and solid waste fund budgets, they denied a proposed 2 percent sewer rate increase on commercial and industrial properties, which would have generated $50,000 of additional sewer revenues.

Council members felt the city has had trouble enough to this point in attracting businesses to the city of Clinton, and by raising sewer rates they would have even more trouble increasing business activity in the city.

“We have a heck of a time with companies that are looking at us of convincing them to come here anyhow,” Rowland said. “But then when we have excessive sewer rates, water rates or taxes that compounds the problem quite a bit. We need to be aware of it and we need to keep it in the front picture of dealing with it.”

By denying the 2 percent increase, the city engineering department will take an additional $50,000 out of its miscellaneous sewer project fund to make up the difference.