Don’tcha just hate it when facts get in the way of political agendas? Like when the Mayor of Montesano and her high-priced sidekick, Smee, claim that laying off two deputy clerks will result in a savings to the general fund?
This letter to the editor of The Vidette, submitted this week, sets the record straight (actual budget numbers available at the link below):
By Kristy Powell
In the May 5th issue of the Vidette, an article appeared entitled “Monte Council Updated on Budget Cuts, Layoffs.” The article contained a number of factual inaccuracies that should be corrected. To wit:
Regarding the dismissed city employees, the approved budget for 2016 prepared by the previous administration and council contained money for general fund expense for clerk Chelsea Anthony and Ashlee Sund salaries of $18,438.82 with benefits an additional $7,917.00. The revised budget presented for the May 10th meeting in response to the supposed fiscal deficit includes projections for clerk salary and benefits of $18,438.82 and $7,917.00 respectively. No money was saved by terminating the deputy clerks, and any claims to the contrary are not reflected in the current mayor’s own numbers. (Emphasis added. See link below.)
It is correct that the city began the year with a projection of approximately $83,000 in the general fund. As in all budgeting, projections are based on prior years’ revenues combined with the economic outlook. This process didn’t deviate from previous years. Included in the projection was an increase of 100 previously vacant homes that are now occupied, and will contribute to the tax rolls, EMS, and utility fees. There is a transfer to the general fund from all utilities doing business in Montesano based on a 6% franchise fee. The one hundred homes will bring in additional revenue and affect the general fund in a positive way. The Utility Maintenance Position that is currently not being filled as indicated by the Mayor is in the Water Fund and that fund is healthy. This is an apples/oranges comparison and does not meet the smell test for the general fund.
Concerning extra expenses: First if we don’t have the cash, we don’t spend it no matter what the budget says; In January the city was presented with a bill for attorney services performed the previous year; Insurance liability payment deposits; Decorating costs that were not budgeted ; Accruals from two department heads were paid out ; and A change in administration left the department heads in charge of spending, and submitting their bills for December. The deadline was missed and the bills were not reflected properly.
The article also mentioned concerns from the Fire Chief. The Fire Department budget, which is not part of the general fund, reviewed its budget projections at the time the council adopted it. All departments were instructed to review their budgets before they were passed in the first meeting of December. This fund has a positive balance. If the chief failed to review the numbers that were projected, then the fault is his own.
A budget is a living, breathing document and it changes based on the amount of cash that flows into the government entity. Even with the apparent shortfall at no time did the previous administration consider terminating employees that were important in providing essential services. These clerks bring in the revenue to the City, they work mainly for the water department.
Before cutting employees a cost analysis of providing unemployment to the clerks should have been discussed. Currently two ex- employees are on unemployment. When the new layoffs file for the unemployment benefit they will be eligible as well. Four people receiving benefits on a self -insured city program is expensive. Why were the wages still in the General Fund? Where is the savings?
This action needs to be discussed, and evaluated by taking some time, analyzing the actual revenue, and by taking knee jerk political retaliations off the table.