Palouse City Council
Public Hearing for Preliminary 2013 budget
Followed by REGULAR COUNCIL MEETING
November 13, 2012
CALL TO ORDER: Mayor Echanove called the Council Meeting to order at 7:01 PM.
ROLL CALL: Council members present: Cecil Floyd, Tim Jones; Connie Newman, Bo Ossinger; Alison Webb; Rick Wekenman. Absent: Norm Schorzman. Norm is sick. Councilmember Newman MOVED to excuse Norm’s absence, seconded by Councilmember Ossinger. Motion carried unanimously. Also present: Public Works Superintendent Dwayne Griffin; Public Works Assistant Marc Arrasmith; Police Chief Jerry Neumann; Police Officers Joe Merry and Brian Dentler; Clerk-Treasurer Joyce Beeson; & Deputy Clerk Ann Thompson. Public present: Jarrod Pfaff, Tim Southern, Cheryl Dentler, Camden Dentler, Kathy Merry, Jeff Snook, Linda Snook, Heather McGehee, Chris Ricketts, Teresa Baker, Lesa Neumann, Quentin Neumann, Gerry Eickhoff, Erik Newman, Richard Styer, Darlene Brantner, Marc VanHarn, Jon Fleischman, Garth Meyer, Jay Iverson, Lynne Nelson.
PUBLIC HEARING: Mayor Echanove opened the public hearing at 7:02 pm. No comments.
Close Public Hearing: Mayor Echanove closed the public hearing at 7:03 pm
APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Councilmember Newman MOVED to adopt the minutes of the Regular Council Meeting of October 23, 2012. Councilmember Wekenman seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously.
PUBLIC WORKS REPORT: Supt. Griffin submitted a written report.
POLICE REPORT: Chief Neumann reported there was an accident in town last week with no injuries but both vehicles were totaled. We’ve had several dog complaints in the last three weeks and had another chicken complaint last week. There is an ongoing investigation with some high school students.
Proposed cuts to P.D. budget and personnel: Chief Neumann discussed his history with the Palouse PD. Through the Garfield contract we were able to hire Officer Dentler. With the current budget woes, we’re being faced with possible reduction of staff. Chief Neumann presented his ideas to help with the budget cuts: Officer Dentler would go to ¾ time saving $9,000, Chief will go on his wife’s insurance, saving $3,600, the three officers will switch to personal cell phones with a stipend from city for city’s right to conduct city business on their personal phones. With these cuts, we would like to retain the Garfield contract. Since 2009, 8% of the Garfield contract is the only city contribution to the PD Vehicle & Equipment fund. The PD is taking the brunt of the budget shortfalls. Chief suggested also looking at switching the city’s property and liability insurance carrier for 2014; Garfield saved $13,000 a year switching their carrier. Another option is to surplus the Harley and we will look into the possibility of receipting the proceeds to the General Fund rather than the PD Vehicle fund. The next PD vehicle (2005 Durango) is scheduled to be replaced in two years.
2013 Budget Discussions: Councilmember Floyd explained how he came to the decision to possibly cut the PD. There are no apparent cuts to make in the Public Works Department and Clerk’s office, so he looked at the PD. With the PD, Councilmember Floyd offered options: 1. Eliminate the Palouse PD and contract with the County Sheriff’s Dept. 2. Eliminate the Palouse PD and don’t contract with the County Sheriff’s Dept. 3. Retain one Police Officer for code enforcement. After researching with the Sheriff’s Dept. and the towns of Tekoa and Rosalia, Councilmember Floyd felt like the best solution for Palouse would be to retain the PD with a reduction in staff and end the policing contract with Garfield. The thought would be to return to a full staff in better economic times. The intent isn’t to have the officer work 24/7 since by law the Sheriffs dept is required to respond to felonies. If we were to reduce, we’re still looking at a $15,000 budget deficit. Councilmember Floyd MOVED to reduce the police staff to one officer, and drop the Garfield contract. Councilmember Webb seconded the motion. Much discussion continued. Mayor outlined his work with the finance committee and diagrammed police department service hours and how the Garfield contract offsets a percentage of expenses.
Councilmember Wekenman said there are other cuts to consider besides just in the PD. Such as eliminating non-essential overtime by public works staff. However overtime is so hard to determine because of catastrophic weather events, equipment breakdowns, and utility emergencies, but some can be nailed down. He recommended changing the current code of overtime based on an 8 hour day to being based on a 40 hour week. Other options are to reduce the cemetery budget from $15,000 to $10,000 a year; Heritage Park restrooms could be shut down for the three coldest months of the year. It’s a building that was not built to be energy efficient. That could save approximately $1,500; we’ve already shut off some city lights downtown; we could do more after doing a lighting inventory such as reducing the lights at the park during the winter. Between the law enforcement cuts proposed and these others, Councilmember Wekenman believes we’ll be able to get our budget in hand.
Councilmember Newman is in favor of approaching our property and liability insurance carrier; it does appear we could save upward of $14,000. But that change wouldn’t take effect until 2014. She asked what cutting $5,000 from the cemetery look like? Marc Arrasmith explained the two older sections could dry up and the three newer sections won’t look like they have for the last 60 or 70 years with this hit. Many residents appreciate our well kept cemetery.
Palouse residents Theresa Baker, Chris Ricketts, Jeff Snook, Linda Snook, and Lesa Neumann all spoke in favor of keeping the police department. They felt like there should have been more community discussion and input before a motion is made to eliminate or greatly reduce the PD. Several present stated that before council considers eliminating the PD they’d like to have the opportunity to vote on it, such as levy for law enforcement. Councilmember Wekenman explained that there have been council discussions in the past to float another levy. They’re risky. You try to find a balance. If you send voters over the edge with levies and they don’t pass, you would lose all of it. The street levy only passed by about 6 votes in 2011.
Palouse resident Darlene Brantner spoke in favor of reducing the police force to one since we are a small community and while it’s nice having the coverage of a three-man department, we can’t afford it. Potlatch has no police force and they’re fine. Erik Newman thinks Palouse needs 1.75 officers. He asked for clarification on some of the budget numbers.
Councilmember Newman said we can’t solve the problem if we don’t define it directly. The problem is we’re spending more than we’re making. The departments are doing everything they can to cut expenditures. If we continue this trend, our general fund is bankrupt in 2.5 years. The total general fund budget deficit for 2009-2013 is $81,785; the total projected general fund budget deficit for 2009-2013 is $97,030; and the average projected annual budget deficit for 2009-2013 is $19,406. Council has been diligently working to cut, but we need to find $15,000 more. The Finance Committee (Norm Schorzman, Chair) needs to start this process much earlier in the year and report back to council. Some of the other committees have been scrambling to pick up the finance committee’s slack. Councilmember Newman wants two more weeks to consider how to fill the $15,000 budget gap in 2013.
Councilmember Jones asked why we are assuming that the beginning balances, or carryovers, are going to keep cycling down? Councilmember Wekenman pointed out that the state used to contribute $80,000 to $100,000 a year to a city our size and now we get $12,000 a year from that source.
Palouse resident Marc VanHarn said that based on the Mayor’s charts, it costs about $10 a month per person to maintain the Police Dept. and that he is well aware of the cuts in state funding to the cities. We’re not wasting money here; that’s not an issue. He spoke in support of offering a levy and thinks the people would support it.
Mayor read aloud a letter from Garfield residents Greg and Sherry Partch in support of keeping the PD and Garfield contract as is.
Motion was re-read. Councilmember Floyd MOVED to reduce the police staff to one officer, and drop the Garfield contract. Councilmember Webb seconded the motion. Motion failed.
PLANNING COMMISSION REPORT:
Planning Commission member Lynne Nelson explained the PC is writing a new comprehensive plan for the city. They have put together a survey for Palouse households and would like to have input from council before mailing it. Perhaps there are questions some would like to add, edit, or remove. The last survey was done in 1995. Council will get their suggestions to Lynne Nelson in the next 2 days. The PC is hoping to send out the survey by Thanksgiving.
Changes to cell phone policy. For cost savings, the PD, Public Works and building inspector will maintain a personal cell phone and be reimbursed $30 a month by the city to off-set their costs. Councilmember Wekenman MOVEDthat the city offers the reimbursement of $30/month to police officers, public works superintendent, and building inspector for the city’s right to conduct city business on personal cell phones. Councilmember Ossinger seconded. Public Works Supt. Griffin stated he will not ask for reimbursement and will not be available by cell phone except in emergency. Motion carried unanimously.
Resolution No. 2012-07 to adopt proposed Health/Dental insurance benefits policy
Mayor read aloud the resolution and the policy in their entirety.
Two employees will have the freedom to opt out of the health and dental/otho plan administered by the city. The city would reimburse them for 50% of the maximum premium that the city is paying at the time as a benefit. Councilmember Wekenman MOVED to adopt Resolution No. 2012-07. Councilmember Newman seconded. Discussion: Both employees who would opt-out said they support this policy and they both would like this benefit to go into their VEBA account. Motion carried unanimously.
Councilmember Newman MOVED, seconded by Councilmember Floyd to continue our council meeting past 10:00 pm. Motion carried unanimously.
Police, Fire, & Safety-Rick Wekenman, Chair: Met several times in the last month. As a result, Councilmember Wekenman MOVED to put together a resolution to set the hours for the Police Officer position at 75% with full medical coverage and compensable hours at 75%. Councilmember Floyd seconded. Discussion: Chief Neumann is hopeful that in the future we are able to bring this officer’s position back to full time. Motion carried unanimously.
Councilmember Jones MOVED that 100% of the 2013 money receipted from Garfield contract go into the general fund. Councilmember Wekenman seconded. Motion carried unanimously.
Councilmember Wekenman MOVED to declare the PD’s Harley Davidson as surplus and direct Chief Neumann to first offer it to other police agencies. Councilmember Newman seconded. Discussion: Councilmember Wekenman understands that monies garnered from this sale need to go back into a PD Vehicle fund. If it is determined otherwise, the proceeds could go into the general fund. C-T Beeson will research this. Motion carried unanimously.
Parks, Cemetery, & Buildings-Alison Webb. Chair: No report
Policy & Administration-Bo Ossinger, Chair: The committee met to discuss chickens. They’ve drafted an ordinance. Councilmember Floyd asked that it go back to committee before it’s written up in ordinance form. He also recommends council read the comprehensive plan.
Streets & Sidewalks-Cecil Floyd, Chair: His report was under Old Business. Additionally, he spoke with Mayor of Garfield who recommended holding a council meeting with the state auditors to get their insight into where to cut and save. The town of Garfield did that and it was very helpful.
Water & Sewer-Connie Newman, Chair: Nothing new with WSP as it is still under review by DOH. The committee is considering a 1% increase in sewer rates which is $.24 cents which would round up to $.25 per service. This will be addressed at a meeting in the future.
Personnel & Pool-Tim Jones, Chair: It was mentioned looking at perhaps cutting somewhere in the pool budget. Councilmember Newman said the pool has already taken deep cuts. Councilmember Wekenman felt all areas of operations should be looked at again including the pool.
Councilmember Newman recommend adding one more month of closure to the Heritage Park restrooms and that they will be meeting again to look at finding more places to cut.
C-T Beeson needs to put together the resolution adopting the 2013 salary schedule for the next council meeting. After some discussion, Councilmember Newman MOVED that the 3% salary reduction not be restored, seconded by Councilmember Floyd. Discussion: As clarification, this would not increase salaries from 2012 except for maintaining the minimum wage and reflecting the 75% reduction to the Police Officer position. Council hates to do this, but it will help balance our budget. Tie vote. Mayor Echanove had to vote to break the tie. He voted yes, no increase in 2013.
ALLOW PAYMENT OF BILLS: Councilmember Webb MOVED that the bills against the city be allowed. Councilmember Jones seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously.
ADJOURN: Councilmember Jones MOVED to adjourn. Councilmember Webb seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously. The council meeting adjourned at 10:30 PM.
The following checks are approved for payment:
Payroll Paid, October 31, 2012. Ck. #4404-4422 & EFT $37,679.91
Claims Paid, November 14, 2012 Ck. #4423-4468 & EFT $123,509.86
APPROVED: ________________________________ ATTEST: ________________________________