08.14.08

Budget meetings

Posted in City Government at 9:10 pm by Moorcat

I have been attending the City Council Budget Meetings and will report on them once they are completed. I am waiting till then to report on them because there is a lot of give and take that goes on in these meetings and nothing is final until they settle the differences.

That said, there are a few things that do need to be pointed out up front. –

1) Like last year, the budget submitted to the City Council by the Mayor’s administration was seriously in the red – like over $87,000.00 in the red. It will be a trick to see how the City Council manages to slash enough out the Mayor’s budget to break even. They also have to take into consideration that some money has be put aside as a cash reserve. The issues with the Fire Hall budget last year developed because not enough money was put aside and when certain revenues didn’t come in as expected, it created a problem.

2) It appears that the City is going to try to use a number of tactics to develop more revenue – including an SID to pave Glendale street, and a number of mill levy requests to fund certain items in the budget. Given the almost $2,000,000.00 shortfall in the Police Retirement Fund that is still unaddressed, it remains to be seen if the Citizens of Dillon are willing to approve ANY further tax money to the City.

3) Certain statutory deadlines have already passed for some of the items in the budget – most notably, the deadlines for the Special Maintenence Districts. To date, no public hearing has been held (as required by statute) and no resolution has been passed. They have discussed a number of things but no resolution has been presented to the City Council. Councilman Straugh wants to raise the amount levied again this year but it is uncertain whether the rest of the council is willing to vote for that. Last year the City Council raised the “per foot” amount from $.50 a foot to $.80 a foot (an increase of 60%). There was a lot of contention about that increase and the way it was done and many property owners protested their taxes because of it. There are still members of the community that claim they want to sue the city over that increase.

4) The City Council voted to increase the amount levied for the Special Lighting District from $.43 to $.49.

Moorcat

08.06.08

Why I hate election years…

Posted in State and Federal Politics at 11:37 pm by Moorcat

I don’t spend as much time now reading the blogs as I used to (and certainly not as much I probably should) but there are some blogs I read everyday. The five blogs I list in my “blogroll” are blogs I read everyday – until an election year. I hate reading the blogs in an election year. My reasons are pretty simple –

1) Blind Partisanship –

Nothing disgusts me more than the tendancy of certain people – usually rational and logical – to throw out all pretense at “informed decision making” during an election year. It seems more and more, that the letter following a candidate’s name (D or R) is more important than anything – including values, truth, or even common sense. More over, it seems that these people are so invested in their partisanship that they immediately attack ANYONE – even someone that believes in the same value system they do – if any disparaging remark is made about THEIR candidate. The amount of blind – dare I say, hatred – astounds and confuses me. Maybe I am a dinosaur, but I still believe that a candidate should stand for something more than just a stuffed suit. These people are running for a position where they will represent ME – and that is damn important. I want to see more than just that they are a member of a political party. I want to see what these people actually stand for and what they have actually done.

2) Attack and Damage Control –

It used to be you would see ads for Candidates where they discussed their accomplishments and the platforms they stood on. Now what you get are “Hit Ads”. Each side of the political spectrum engages in this behavior and it doesn’t matter which side started it or who is better at it. If both sides engage in this behavior, they are BOTH wrong. I don’t want to see what dirt you dig up on your opponent. I want to see what the candidates, themselves, stand for.

The other side of the coin is just as true anymore. Candidates spend more time doing “damage control” – explaining the dirt the other side dug up, minimizing past mistakes, outright lying about their previous stances and changing positions on the issues more often than they change their underwear – than they do taking a stand on the basic issues facing the American Public. We live in the age of “political stunts” and “bad politics” to the point where we accept and expect those behaviors. This is insanity, plain and simple. I could give you a dozen examples – from both sides of the aisle – but I don’t have to because any reasoning and semi-intelligent person is already aware of them.

The system itself is designed for failure –

For all the promises made by all these candidates, how many of the issues are actually addressed? The Republicans like to point to the Democrats currently and say “now you all control Congress.. how come nothing has changed?”. The sad fact, though, is that the Democrats DON’T control Congress. There aren’t enough Democrats to override a minority push to kill or slow an action and there certainly aren’t enough to overcome a presidential veto. If action isn’t being accomplished, it is because BOTH sides of the aisle have failed, and that is a failure for the American People, not the stuffed suits sitting in Congress. The only way things are ever going to get accomplished (right or wrong) is if either the stuffed suits learn to get along (not bloody likely…) or one side gets enough control to ACTUALLY control Congress.

My stand –

I am a conservative. I believe in smaller government, accountability for our representatives and fiscal responsibility. That used to be the mantra of the Republican Party but not so much anymore. Instead, you hear them crow about how much Pork they can bring back and how the Government can solve all the woes of the world – either through “police actions” like what is going on in Iraq or through Government handouts to the filthy rich like Exxon. Where is the fiscal conservatism of 30 years ago? Where is the action to curb government spending and growth? It has gone into the same hopper as every other value held by the Republicans I worked with in the early 80’s.

Anymore, it almost appears that the Democrats are running on a platform traditionally held by the Republicans. “I have seen the enemy, and it be us” (yes, I know that is a misquote..). How did this happen? When did this happen, and why didn’t we do anything about it? One of the statements I have seen on a couple of blogs recently that I actually agree with is that there isn’t all that much difference between the parties anymore. Neither one seems accountable to their constituancy and nothing seems to change regardless of what party is “in control”.

So the next time you want to showcase a new “hit ad” on your political website, stop for second and think about if that ad really portrays the values you hold. If you are just posting it because it comes from your party, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

Moorcat

08.01.08

Special Finance Committee Meeting called

Posted in City Government at 12:28 am by Moorcat

A Special Finance Committee Meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, August 5th at 12:00 noon in City Council Chambers. This is in addition to the regulary scheduled Finance Committee Meeting set for the same day at 4:00pm.

The Agenda for the meeting is –

1) Fire Department Excess Expenditures
2) Payments for City Attorney
3) Public Comments on Subjects not on the Agenda

Background

This is actually the first I have heard about the Fire Department exceeding their budget and until I know more about the situation, I am unwilling to comment. The announcement for the meeting did not contain any additional information so I am kind of in the dark on this item – other than it will entail much of the same difficulties as the second item on the agenda.

The issue with Mr. Gilbert was a given. When the budget meetings began back in May, it was already obvious that Mr. Gilbert was going to exceed his budget spectacularly. With May and June’s pay still to go, Mr. Gilbert was already over $1,500.00 over budget. Further, there were still outstanding bills totalling over $5,000.00 for hours Mr. Gilbert worked in excess of 55 hours a month. The amount of money owed Mr. Gilbert overbudget at this point was not disclosed in the meeting message but it has to be in excess of $10,000.00 based on the figures presented during the budget talks.

Mr. Gilbert submitted a request to be paid the outstanding amount to the City Council at the last City Council meeting. I was not in attendance, so I am not sure how much that bill was or what Mr. Gilbert was claiming it was for.

Over budget and Past deadline –

The issues here are simple to describe but seemingly hard to resolve. Montana Law is specific about how a City is required to Budget and spend money. While a City is allowed to NOT spend budgeted money, any money spent OVER budget requires a Budget Amendment. You are allowed to shift money around in a budget account, but you are not allowed to exceed the budgeted amount for an account.

In the case of Mr. Gilbert, they had already shifted money around in his account to pay some of the overages. Unfortunately, Mr. Gilbert submitted hours that exceeded the entire amount for the account. Further, no budget amendment was ever done to address the issue.

To complicate matters, the Budget year ended on July 1, 2008. I have been informed that a City is not allowed to do “retroactive” budget amendments after the fiscal year has ended.

What it will take to resolve this situation is anyone’s guess. In conversations with two seperate accountants, they were unable to suggest a solution that meets the requirements of Montana Municipal Finance Law. Further, any information from Mr. Gilbert is suspect because he stands to financially gain from the decision of the City Council. This is not a small matter and will take some serious consideration to resolve.

Kudos to Councilman Straugh

As I reported yesterday, Mayor Malesich has issued a policy to his office staff that they will no longer send out notifications over the announcement list about Committee Meetings. Apparently, Mr. Straugh made a special request that notification about this meeting be sent out to all the City Council. Further Malesich required that the meeting announcement be sent to Rick Later and Scott Marsh of the Fire Department. Thank you, Councilman Straugh for at least insisting that the meeting announcement be sent to the Council.

Moorcat