Monday, April 15, 2013
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Lincoln budget talks continue

Part 3: City considers what to cut in this year's expenditure list

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[April 15, 2013]  Tuesday evening, as budget talks progressed in Lincoln City Council chambers, the final steps included reviewing some of the requests made by various departments. Mayor Keith Snyder introduced the next round; then city administrator Sue McLaughlin offered an overview of all the items in question.

McLaughlin said there were potential cuts in each department.

In the clerk's office, there is a request for a wage increase for the deputy clerk, the addition of a part-time human resource clerk and a request for the new sewer department software that has been discussed recently.

In building and zoning, there is a request to hire part-time, temporary help for the summer for some specific tasks that need to be done. There is a potential to reduce the amount designated for demolitions.

In the police department, there is a request for a 5 percent increase in the wages of the chief and deputy chief, and a potential to cut police training costs.

In the fire department, there is a potential to cut some of the equipment costs for the new fiscal year.

There could be cuts in the city administrator position, and she said everyone was wondering what was going on with the $8,000 garage door for the street department.

McLaughlin was asked if all these things are currently in the budget, and she said they were. She was asked if with all this, the city budget was in the red, and she verified that it was.

Melody Anderson first questioned the HR position in the clerk's budget. She asked if that was actually in the budget, and McLaughlin confirmed that it was. Anderson asked how much of it was designated as HR. McLaughlin said it was $15,000.

O'Donohue wondered if this was one item that needed to be put on hold pending a decision about the city administrator. He said he thought HR could be a duty for the city administrator if the city decides to keep the administrator.

He also said he'd jump in and say he was pro-administrator and wanted to keep that position. Anderson said if that were a motion, she would second it, and Neitzel agreed.

The question came up as to what the HR position would entail. City Clerk Susan Gehlbach said it was primarily work involving claims -- whether workers' comp, health or something else -- and it takes up a tremendous amount of time in the clerk's office.

O'Donohue said there was a difference between HR and clerical, and he thought much of what was being talked about wasn't HR, but clerical.

Comments were also made that the administrator didn't need to be doing clerical work, and McLaughlin said there was also a matter of her having time to do it. She speculated that if turned over to her office, it would be a duty of the secretary.

Snyder explained that currently, the city administrator has two part-time secretaries. Both would have to be trained in the handling of these claims. McLaughlin also added that if the council doesn't want the added person, she and Gehlbach will figure it all out.

Gehlbach said there were a lot of changes going on in the clerk's office this year, and they have a huge workload right now. David Wilmert then confirmed that the big issue is the overall workload in the office and that Gehlbach was saying she needed more help. Gehlbach confirmed that.

Anderson said she heard what Gehlbach was saying, but most of what is being talked about is implementation of one-time events. She said she couldn't justify hiring new help for one-time events. She concluded by saying none of those things needed to be done by an HR person. She said she wanted to eliminate the HR position from the budget, let some of these issues settle down, and see how it works out.

O'Donohue agreed.

The next issue was a 7 percent increase for the deputy city clerk, Joy Fulk. O'Donohue said he was opposed to a raise of that size. Neitzel asked why it was being requested.

Gehlbach said first that Fulk is a workhorse and accomplishes a great deal. She is a multitasker and hard worker. In addition, Gehlbach said Fulk is being paid significantly less than other department heads, and this increase would bring her more in line with the others.

Snyder commented that Fulk was not a department head. Anderson echoed that but added that the city has a consistent gap between union labor, department heads and deputies. She said that with union raises, the gap continues to narrow. "If you keep narrowing and narrowing that, you're not going to get department heads and deputies," she said.

Anderson said that in looking at cuts, that was one request she was not inclined to cut. Bruce Carmitchel agreed that the salary for the deputy clerk should be more equitable. He added that after all the discussion that has gone on about the new software, it should not be cut either.


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Snyder said the software was a $10,000 initial contract and a $6,000 contract per year for the next three years. He said the city has had talks about going to billing by consumption. He said if they did that, the city could also discuss going to monthly billing. Right now, the clerk's staff cannot handle that workload. However, the city has talked in the past about farming out that duty to the water company. He said if the city goes forward with the expense of the software, that might eliminate the city looking at other options.

Anderson said leaving it in the budget doesn't necessarily necessitate not exploring the outsourcing option. She said she felt she wanted to leave the software in the budget. She noted that when the city had looked at outsourcing in the past, the costs involved added up pretty quickly, but they could still look at it again.

With the meeting surpassing the two-hour mark, McLaughlin told the council they were probably within $30,000 of having a balanced budget. She said if the council wished, she could take a look at some of the remaining items, cut a few thousand here and there, and balance the budget. Everyone seemed to agree that was a good idea.

Wrapping it up, O'Donohue said he wanted to qualify that he had nothing against the clerk's staff in being opposed to the raise for Fulk. He said he was also opposed to the 5 percent increases for other departments.

Additionally, O'Donohue wanted to know where the budget was on the city's community partners. He was referring to Main Street Lincoln, support for the balloon festival with the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce, support for the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership, and the Railsplitter Festival. He was told all those agencies still have money in the budget.

Wilmert asked if they were all at the same funding levels as last year and was told they were.

Anderson then questioned the CEDS fee for the development partnership. She asked if the $5,000 annual fee will remain in effect now that Lincoln and Logan County are in the CEDS program.

Snyder said he would get an update on that from Brian Bergen, the development partnership's executive director, but the mayor's understanding was that the fee would go to $6,000 per year, divided between the city and the county.

Kathy Horn commented on the CEDS and Bergen, saying that now that the county and city are members, Bergen is learning a lot about the program and how it works. Snyder agreed, saying there has been a lot of progress. Horn said yes, it was not like in years past. Jeff Hoinacki said the development partnership has tried and tried for that goal, and now that they have reached it, he would like to see what it does for the city.

O'Donohue asked about the $2,500 to Main Street Lincoln for the Christmas parade: Were they still getting that? It was explained that the organization gets $12,500 and the $2,500 is included in that total, but they can use it as they see fit.

Snyder also commented on a $25,000 request for a retail study that is currently in the budget. He said it would bring consultants to the city to do a study and identify the retail gaps. He said they would then tell the city what gaps are present and what types of retailers it needs to target.

Finally, the topic turned to the $8,000 garage door for the street department. Wilmert commented, "I just have to know what that is."

Tracy Jackson of the street department said he had a bid for $5,000 for a roof for the building at the landfill and the rest was for a garage door. Snyder commented that the city was sinking $8,000 into an old building. He wanted to know what was being kept there. Jackson said it housed the city backhoe, oil and an air compressor.

Anderson wondered if there would be room for those items in the new city garage that will eventually be built. Jackson said the backhoe was used just at the landfill to push brush and load trucks. He was asked if he could not drive it back and forth as needed. And, Jackson said he could.

Snyder said he just didn't see that the old building was worth $8,000; he couldn't see putting that kind of money into it. Jackson said that expense could then be cut and all he would need for the landfill for the year would be $2,000.

The council agreed to leave the rest of the cuts to McLaughlin. As it stands now, the vote for the new fiscal year budget will be on the Monday agenda.

If, for some reason the council cannot approve the budget on Monday, they will call for a meeting prior to the workshop session on April 29. The city is required to have the budget passed before the beginning of the fiscal year, which will be May 1.


Previous articles on April 9 meeting

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