Monday, May 9, 2011

Live Blogging the Budget Session...

Lots of questions tonight regarding the police and fire budget...wondering why the budget has gone up in police. Answered by Lamerato that part of it is accounting for DB contributions for long-term employees - contractual obligations to pay out benefits. These are the same employees that will be offered the ERIP program (retirement buyout) -- thus possibly resulting in less expense overall. Cuts still to be made via contract negotiations.

Beltramini wonders why it is that Troy's police budget is 3x the budget of Rochester. Answer is that Rochester has 1/3 the manpower, thus 1/3 the budget. Additionally, that manpower can leave the city if needed elsewhere in the community -- thus leaving Rochester 'unmanned,' as it were. Also, we have our own surveillance team and dispatch and other services that Rochester doesn't. Our 'customer satisfaction' is also much higher -- the public appreciates our police force more than the Rochester public appreciates theirs as reflected by the data.

Fleming asks that they look over expenditures in fire department -- wonders do we need the newest and best equipment when what we have might do well. Answered that because we have a volunteer force, safety comes FIRST; expenses are considered thoughtfully before any money is spent, but the safety of our PUBLIC VOLUNTEERS is paramount.

Suggestions by Kerwin to consider rolling the expense of longevity/car allowances into base pay. Szerlag explains why it is not economically advantageous to do so -- would end up costing the city more.

Fleming suggests council cuts their own monthly wage by 20% (they get $175/month before taxes). This stipend covers travel, telephone and computer allowances -- Howrylak suggests using it to restore JamFest. Schilling explains even cutting it ALL is little compared to the big task of funding a library.

Howrylak says if we are going to cut by 10% in an employee group, it must reflect a 10% TOTAL cost cut -- meaning in wages, benefits, etc., and not just a 10% savings reflected in total budget.

FINALLY THE LIBRARY, AFTER AMPLE STALLING...

Schilling's resolutions suggest levying for 2 issues on August ballot...council can discuss amounts.

Slater explaining his suggestions...shouldn't go for two goals...only go for the library RIGHT NOW. Feels add'l revenue is needed to reach city goals of long-term library and better road service, but believes the council and the community only want what is needed to accomplish those goals.

Slater believes in an August vote -- believes there is support for an up or down vote without outside influences, and that it could be done.

Slater believes data supports that library funding should be dedicated, that we should determine what is needed tonight, should ask for it in August, and that the issue should stand alone.

Slater believes in council and community support for this issue.

2009-2010 library costs .97 mills at current levels.
Current library costs .62mills at current levels.

As property values are projected to fall, council must determine an adequate rate to cover what kind of library is desired.

Kerwin wonders why we shouldn't accomplish two goals with a millage vote -- roads are paramount based on what she has heard from community. Every person relies on safe travel, and that we should consider adding roads in NOW, not later. Kerwin sees no disadvantage is asking to solve two problems with an August ballot.

Fleming thinks everyone agrees we need to save library/have safe roads. He sees difficulties in really knowing what future concessions/negotiations will offer, but thinks we can fund the library in current budget WITHOUT a millage -- a library at current level that we have now. Fleming says then solving the roads issue is easier...it's only 100's of thousands not millions of dollars.

Schilling says roads actually take millions to clear adequately, keep up, etc.

Howrylak agrees with Fleming, says just fund it now, then those who feel we need add'l funding can just put it on the ballot sometime later. Says we should look at all options to fund roads.

McGinnis feels Slater's suggestion is a compromise, recognizes validity to questions regarding funding options, etc. But library funding is set to be zeroed out -- cannot agree with statement that there is money available. That essentially that means using fund balance to fund it. She feels community has definitely come forward in support of new funding -- it's different now vs. last November. Funding for the library is upon us; not seeing money that can be reallocated. Would feel better having library funding separated out in a millage.

Beltramini agrees with McGinnis -- no more time for dithering, must discuss the library now. Appreciates the degree of compromise Slater puts forth, disagrees with Howrylak and Fleming -- not time to figure out where that supposed money is and to figure out how to get it to fund the library. If the goal is to have a useful library, we have to fund it...and we have to fund it not for six weeks but for at least a quarter year ($223K per month) -- even if millage fails -- to allow time/money to close. That money must be found immediately. Hears that everyone has had to cut...why is it that city believes even core services should be held to a higher standard? Should only try to fund the library as it is now, not at full-service prior standards.

Current 1 mill is worth 4.4and change...will lose about 1.2 million/year in the next few years.

Beltramini thinks attempting funding for ten years is too long. Anything over five years would be a problem. Agrees with Slater -- one thing at at time in terms of a millage bid.

Schilling -- asks that council should consider if we want a full-service, award winning library or what we have now -- less funding, closed on Saturdays, etc. Have to get council to agree IF we should have a vote, and if so, for what. Deciding now would be more cost-effective, give relief to anxiety in community, and have benefit of data collection that can help with it. Thinks a determination must be made tonight or on the 16th.

(Dear Lord...MAKE IT TONIGHT!)

Howrylak thinks we should have all our library privileges now while we wait; Director Russ explains that it may not be possible given our uncertainty. MELCAT may not allow us certain privilegs. Certain other services cannot be restarted while library future is uncertain. Some subscriptions have lapsed in preparation for being closed. Service today is NOT what we had two months ago, cannot shift between closed/open so quickly. Cannot take holds, etc., until we know if we are closing. Must act as though we are closing until we know.

Howrylak says take closing off the table -- should not be an issue. Re: fund balance can't say balance is allocated since 2012 budget isn't approved, doesn't buy into the premise that we don't have funding. Won't be pushed in that direction of saying we don't have the $$ -- not calling this a compromise. Feels being forced into it by the four who voted for the budget and who are 'forcing' the closing of the library with that budget that defunds the library.

Slater disappointed -- as long as some are telling others we have money that we don't, we cannot compromise. Howrylak thinks we should have a GENERAL tax increase if we have one so that it can be spent where necessary. Slater reiterates that he thinks community wants a dedicated millage -- even though Slater feels similarly re: general operating fund millage increase vs. dedicated millage.

NO DECISION YET. Gah.

Schilling stopping to call on speakers for public comment.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the very quick update! I'm tivo-ing and will watch tonight. Sarah

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  2. So much for my hope that the council might actually stand together. Listening to this it appears that our city has not made any progress in the year plus that this has been their football!

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