The Lake Lotawana BOA held the final meeting of 2013 on December 17th at 7 P.M. The highlight of the meeting was the second reading of the ordinance approving the 2014 budget.
The meeting proceeded uneventfully through the approval of minutes and the consideration and approval of November 2013 financials. Of note is that the City’s financials are still within budget and expected norms.
Unlike a business that garners revenue throughout the year, a municipal government’s general operations budget revenue arrives at the end of the fiscal year, and a few months into the following year. That is of course the property tax payments that are returned to the City. So budgeting and understanding expenses can sometimes be difficult to unravel to the uninitiated.
In our City following the budget throughout the year is non-productive and citizen’s attention should be on the Monthly Cash Flow Report which reports on the actual balance in the City’s accounts. Of course a citizen would then need to interpolate those numbers into the budget, a nearly impossible task with the information available.
The departmental reports were then presented.
Police Chief Brent Miller explained to the BOA an incident that resulted in his disciplining a Department Officer for a pursuit that was out of scope of Departmental Regulations. The incident occurred over a month ago and took place on Highway 50 about 3 A.M. There was an arrest for DWI, and weapon was found in the car. A charge is pending for illegal possession of a firearm.
There was discussion on authorization of expenditures for "an emergency" including what constitutes an emergency. This was a continuing discussion as to the powers of the City Administrator, Jill Cornett. Unfortunately, Ms. Cornett was hired without the benefit of a complete scope of work in the form of an ordinance, a clear assignment of powers and authority (at least according to some Aldermen), and without a contract. This management failure left Ms. Cornett at a decided disadvantage in prosecuting her job.
With limited discussion, the 2014 budget, having been amended since the first reading in November, was passed unanimously. There were two interesting points to the new budget.
First, as discussed at the November reading, it was decided that a new siren for the area south of Highway 50 should be added to the budget as an individual line item. Ms. Cornett informed the BOA that had been added, and she anticipated the cost at $20,000. There is no siren located there currently and one is desperately needed before the next tornado season. That increased the total budget expenses to just over $1,189,000.
The interesting part is that somehow, the income estimate also rose by $20,000. No explanation was offered at the meeting.
Also of interest was a line under income estimates that remains blank. That is account 350, labeled "Barber Tipping Fees" (referring to Barber & Son Aggregates on Highway 7). That was estimated in the 2013 budget at $45,600, and yet remains unpaid. That is money that was actually for sales in 2012 and is usually paid at the beginning of the following year.
There has been limited open discussion on this matter. Earlier in the year Mayor Welsh disclosed that former Mayor Howard Chamberlin was involved in discussions with Barber & Son Aggregates. In November, City Clerk Rhonda Littrell was directed by the BOA to write a letter to Barber & Son Aggregates, and it was reported at this meeting that she had sent the letter, but that was all. So the line item payment remains conspicuously empty: unpaid
So, to those that had their sewers cut off this year for non-payment (68 homes, about "average") may be wondering who they need to talk to to get that same kind of treatment.
Happy Holidays to all Tribune readers and those who work for or serve the City. And to those that hang stockings, keep an eye out for that extra $20,000 dollars. The BOA found some, maybe you will too.