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Delta City Council wrestles with appropriations

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Delta City Council members readily agreed to supplemental appropriations for 2017, but hesitated when making appropriations for the coming year.

Tod DeZeeuw, explained the unanticipated revenues and expenditures contained in the supplemental appropriations ordinance considered by council members Dec. 5. The general fund appropriation includes a pass-through of $573,000, which reflects receipt of a Center for Mental Health grant administered by the city. The Center for Mental Health spent the entire grant amount on building renovations. Another $32,500 will cover unemployment insurance, the cost of which was not known when the 2017 budget was prepared. DeZeeuw also requested an additional $3,000 for the dental fund, to ensure adequate funding for November and December claims.

The supplemental appropriations received unanimous council approval.

But a motion to approve 2018 appropriations failed to draw a second for several minutes.

The 2018 budget has been approved; under consideration Dec. 5 was second reading of an ordinance authorizing the spending of budgeted funds.

Council member Ron Austin's motion to approve the ordinance was met with questions, rather than a second.

Questions addressed Delta Urban Renewal Authority funding, golf course revenues and transfers from one fund to another. Still, there was no second to Austin's motion.

"I would have to ask, what is there with regard to the appropriations that you can't support?" he asked.

City attorney David McConaughy interjected, "We need to do the appropriation to have the authority to spend the money; that doesn't mean you have to spend the money."

"If we don't, come Dec. 31, there is no money," Mayor Ed Sisson added.

Council member Bill Raley finally seconded Austin's motion, "for the purpose of the city staying in business."

"Personally I feel this budget is a staff budget and not a council budget," Gerald Roberts said. "For the sake of the city staying in business I will vote for the appropriations but I disapprove of the budget that was passed."

The 2018 budget passed on a 3-2 vote Nov. 21, with Roberts and Christopher Ryan casting dissenting votes.

Roberts reiterated a request to have input on the budget earlier in the year. "I don't want to nitpick the line items; we know we have wages, we know we have to buy electricity. I want to know where money comes from and where it's going, where transfers are coming from and where they're going.

"In the future, it will be much easier to adopt the budget and appropriations with council input."

According to city charter, the city manager is to present the budget to the city council, city manager David Torgler said. It's up to city council to determine what services should be provided, not necessarily to get involved in the "nuts and bolts" of the finances of the city.

The city attorney again stressed the importance of adopting some form of the appropriations ordinance, and the issue went to a vote. The ordinance was approved on second and final reading on a 4-1 vote, with Christopher Ryan casting the only "no" vote. He reiterated his opinion that some "pre-existing" elements of the budget could have been addressed sooner.

Because budget projections point to deficits in future years, staff and council have already begun discussions on how to increase revenues or decrease expenditures. "We're going to get an early jump on this issue," Torgler said.

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