Mill levy decreases slightly
Baldwin City's mill levy will go down - ever so slightly - for next year, but even with that good news, all city council members didn't end up supporting the budget at Monday's meeting.
The budget for fiscal year 2009 will be $16,161,996 with the general fund accounting for $2,175,002. The mill levy for 2009 will be 31.423, compared to last year's 32.354, a reduction of 0.931 of a mill.
After discussion during the last year when council members were worried about a mill levy jump, possibly big, it seemed like good news. It was, but half the council still wanted more.
Council Member Ken Wagner amended the motion to accept the proposed budget to include moving the salary money for a position in the codes enforcement department to asphalt work and curb and guttering. It passed 3-2, with Wagner and Council Members Ted Brecheisen, Jr., and Doyle Jardon voting for it. Council President Amy Cleavinger and Councilman Tony Brown voted against.
"I'm comfortable with the mill levy," said Wagner, noting that his amendment didn't change it or the budget.
"I am, too," said Brecheisen. "I'm just concerned with the economy we are in and is going to last for two or three more years, I think we need to watch where we're spending money."
That brought quite a discussion and almost brought a hiring freeze for the year.
"We spent a lot of time talking about this in budget committee," said Cleavinger about the code's position. "There are vacancies elsewhere and maybe we need to look at those, too. We need to use this philosophy across the board."
"It would be fine if we draw the line on all positions," said Brecheisen.
City Administrator Jeff Dingman said the only two open positions were the code's position and the full-time fire chief, which has been a position the council has spent years bringing about.
"We'd put a hiring freeze in effect for next year?" said Brecheisen. "I'd be all for that."
The motion was not amended to include a hiring freeze and, eventually, gained the 3-2 passing. But, the evening discussion wasn't over yet.
The council approved unanimously to spend $21,320 for a half-ton truck for the sewer department. Brecheisen objected to spending $14,678 for an animal control vehicle.
"They need to make do with what they have," said Brecheisen. "We need to save money where we can."
To that point, Brown had been fairly quiet regarding the discussions. That ended.
"I have two responses to the issues you have raised regarding the purchase of the animal control vehicle," said Brown. "The first is that it seems to me that every time a resolution to purchase a new vehicle comes before us, you question whether it is a necessary expense, even though the purchases have been approved in the city budget.
"So, we end up discussing each vehicle purchase twice - once during the budgeting process and then again when each purchase is approved," he said. "I believe that the appropriate time to have these discussion is during the budgeting process when we are making financial plans for the coming year. And I think it is disingenuous to approve vehicle purchases in the budgeting process and then take back those decisions when the time comes to pay for the vehicles."
The city has adopted over the past six years a plan to replace vehicles on a timely basis, rather than when they're falling apart as was done in the past. It still brings a response from Brecheisen who was the lone vote against the animal control vehicle. And, Brown wasn't done.
"A second response is to your statement that the city needs to save money wherever we can," said Brown. "I understand your position that we are spending the public's money and I agree that we have to be careful in how we do that. But I also believe that we have to balance our fiscal concern with responsibility to provide services to people in Baldwin City.
"If all we want to do is save money, there are a lot of places in the budget to do that," he said. "But I think we would do so at the cost of reducing services I think Baldwin residents deserve."
That brought a comment from Mayor Gary Walbridge.
"Very well said, Tony," said Walbridge.