Council discusses wish lists

The Jefferson City Council is nearing the end of its budget process and has begun discussions on proposals not included in the proposed 2014 budget.

At the Budget Committee meeting Monday, council members began making motions for various amendments, with City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus warning of tough finances continuing into the 2015 fiscal year and urging the council to “have as few things in the budget as possible that are continuing expenses.”

Second Ward Councilman J. Rick Mihalevich made a motion to transfer $5,000 from the special events line item to Salute to America, bringing the total Salute funding to $10,000, which was unanimously approved.

Mihalevich also made a motion to transfer $2,500 from the contingency fund to the Cultural Arts Commission, which was approved 7-3.

Third Ward Councilman Ken Hussey made a motion, which ultimately failed, to strike the $130,000 included in the mayor’s proposed budget for a finance director and instead use that money to purchase various equipment for city departments, including a patch truck, new software for Human Resources and a trailer for the Public Works Department.

“We’ve got a lot of pink sheets and a lot of capital items that are just going to carry forward,” Hussey said. “My belief is we are getting the service we need out of Bill Betts (interim finance director) and the Finance Department ... to me this seems like a wise move to make.”

Several other council members disagreed, saying the city needs a finance director as soon as a quality candidate can be found. Fifth Ward Concilman Ralph Bray said the city has several interim or vacant positions right now and the sooner the finance director position is filled, the sooner the rest can begin to be filled.

Mayor Eric Struemph said he included the position in his budget because the city needs someone with experience, and he does not want to go into two major projects — the proposed conference center and multipurpose building — without a full-time finance director.

Nickolaus said he did not include the position in his budget because a finance director simply is a management position, not an economist who can make predictions.

“My priorities would certainly be in other things,” Nickolaus said.

The motion failed 6-4.

Bray made a motion to eliminate the city’s contingency fund and move the money into the fund balance, where only the council can authorize a transfer. Contingency funds would be able to be allocated, within a certain limit, by the city administrator. The motion was approved 7-3.

Before adjourning, the council turned discussions to JCTV. Hussey said the city needs to have some resolution on the issue.

The contract with the station requires a 90-day termination notice, which means even if the funds are not restored, the city will be obligated to provide funding for at least a few weeks, which is not in the proposed budget.

Though many council members expressed support for the station and a desire for added information, no one was able to make a motion to restore the funding.

“I don’t know where we pull the money from,” said 5th Ward Councilman Larry Henry. “That’s kind of been the discussion all along.”

The committee plans to meet again at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

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