Newsletter and Wages Topics in Opening Budget Discussions
Jun 14, 2016 10:39AM
● Published by Briana Kelley
Elected officials and city staff met on May 10 to discuss the 2016–2017 fiscal year budget. Photo courtesy of Briana Kelley.
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By Briana Kelley | email@example.com
Riverton City budget discussion is in full swing. Elected officials and staff have been discussing specific line items for the 2016–2017 fiscal year budget since early May. The council will vote on the budget at the June 14 council meeting at the Riverton City Hall.
“Twenty-nine-plus million dollars are on the line,” Applegarth said. “I would hope the public comes. This is your money: $29 million-plus. I hope it grabs your attention in that regard, and I hope you will come and be a member in the process.”
The council officially opened up discussion after tentatively adopting the tentative budgets for the 2016–2017 fiscal year on May 3. City staff prepared the budget after the strategic plan was completed last winter. Applegarth then prepared his budget based on staff recommendations. The mayor’s budget was posted online on May 4. The council is now responsible to review and make changes to it.
“The staff and the council generally identify where money may be spent,” Applegarth said. “The council also reviews and re-prioritizes the mayor’s budget. Most often, the mayor and council share common priorities when it comes to city services, but the council’s priorities can also vary. Their point of view often comes from what their district needs as opposed to the mayor’s point of view of what the city as a whole needs. It isn’t a point of right or wrong; it is just a different point of view, and both are very important in the process. I think it is good that the council has the final say in the process. Five council members can see things the mayor may miss.”
The council has already made notable changes to the budget. At the May 10 council meeting, which was dedicated solely to budget items, council members decided unanimously to discontinue delivering a paper newsletter to residents each month, saving the city $25,000.
Council members hope instead that residents will subscribe online for the newsletter and turn to the website and social media for information. The last newsletter to go out in the mail will be the June 10 newsletter.
Council members also voted unanimously to increase their salaries by $2,500. Councilmember Sheldon Stewart brought up the “unpopular conversation,” arguing that Riverton council member wages are significantly below those of surrounding cities. Councilmember Tricia Tingey agreed that their salaries should not fall so far behind the market that the city would need to play catch-up later on. Applegarth resisted and did not receive a pay raise for his position.
When asked if there were any fee increases in the budget, the city responded that there were absolutely no monthly fee increases in the mayor’s budget this year.
Stewart was elected mayor tempore and has led budget discussions with the council. He believes budget discussion will continue to go smoothly despite challenges and potential differing opinions.
“I look to us reviewing the budget and completing it in a timely manner with a thorough review of each of the areas,” he said. “I believe some areas we have challenges are working through the funding of road maintenance. As a city we have found ways to keep up on this maintenance. However, this year we face a significant hurdle due to residents in Salt Lake County not passing the tax for transportation that dedicated funds directly to cities for road maintenance and repair. However, our staff is resourceful, and if we as a council can find ways to fund these projects, we can still maintain these roads.”
The city budget must be passed by June 24 to be in compliance with auditing laws and will most likely be passed on the council meeting scheduled June 14. It is not too late for residents to be involved and elected officials voiced that they want feedback.
“As elected officials we always need feedback from the people,” Applegarth said. “It is the citizens’ city, and they know best what services are valuable to them and what level of services they want. When people attend council meeting or listen online to our budget meetings, they become better informed and, in turn, we hope that they take the opportunity to call, email, or share their public comment on what they want. If we don’t receive feedback, we are just guessing what they want; we really don’t know.”