Crestwood Board of Aldermen eyes final approval of ’15 budget

Duchild’s budget comments incense Trueblood, Wallach

By Mike Anthony

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen will consider final approval of the city’s 2015 budget when it meets next week.

Aldermen voted last week to approve first readings of four ordinances related to the budget, which projects total expenditures of $12,509,916 with anticipated revenues of $11,808,800 — a deficit of $701,116.

First readings of ordinances for the general fund, capital improvement fund and park and stormwater fund budgets were approved with 6-1 votes, with Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild opposed.

Aldermen voted unanimously to approve the first reading of an ordinance for the sewer lateral budget.

Final approval of the measures will be considered when the board meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9, at the Government Center, 1 Detjen Drive.

The board voted to approve an amendment to the proposed capital improvement budget related to the Spellman Avenue reconstruction project that reduced expenditures by $250,000 and decreased revenues by $200,000.

As a result, the total projected deficit for the 2015 budget decreased to $701,116 from $751,116. With an estimated beginning fund balance of $6,737,696 on Jan. 1, an ending fund balance of $6,036,580 is projected on Dec. 31, 2015.

The proposed budget includes a 2-percent salary increase for employees, the addition of a full-time planning position and three new part-time positions.

Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild, who previously served on the Ways and Means Committee until Mayor Gregg Roby replaced him with Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood earlier this year, read a statement expressing his disappointment with the proposed budget, City Administrator Mark Sime and the Ways and Means Committee, which includes Roby, Trueblood and Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach.

“… It disappoints me greatly that the city administrator and the members of the Ways and Means Committee delivered a budget in which expenses far exceed revenues,” he said. “Not long ago when this board voted in new members of the Ways and Means Committee, I asked each member and the city administrator if they intended to deliver a balanced budget to the Board of Aldermen. Each replied that it was their intent to do so.

“Considering these intentions, I am concerned that the city administrator delivered a budget that was out of balance by over $900,000. Even more alarming is the fact that the Ways and Means (Committee) did not immediately vote to send this unbalanced budget back with the request that it be returned balanced. Instead, after a lackluster effort of trimming excess expenses, the commission delivered the Board of Aldermen a budget that was $751,116 out of balance. All four of you have earned an F for your efforts. Together, you have all failed to deliver a balanced budget …”

Duchild made a motion to send the budget back to Sime, asking him to deliver a balanced budget to the board. The motion died for lack of a second. Other aldermen, particularly Trueblood and Wallach, took exception with Duchild’s remarks.

Trueblood was incensed by Duchild’s comments and defended using reserves to balance the proposed budget.

“… First of all, I’m highly offended by the tone and attitude that you just presented, Alderman Duchild,” he said. “The fact of the matter is everybody has a savings account. We have a limit to what we want to put in or X goal. This city has the same thing, but we have never told the city administrator what that goal was. So, in essence, if we used all the reserves, we would not be unbalancing the budget because there is no ordinance (stating) that we have so much in that balance or in that fund.

“So if we have to use that to meet the needs of our city, we’re not unbalanced. It’s kind of like having your own personal savings account at home that you put aside for a rainy-day event. When the rainy-day event comes along, you spend it … You spend the dad-gum money because you’ve got it there and that’s what you saved it for. So I’m highly resentful and offended by your comments tonight that anybody who votes against you is voting for irresponsible financial activity …”

Wallach said he also was offended by Duchild’s remarks, noting that when Duchild served on the Ways and Means Committee last year, that panel recommended approval of the city’s 2014 budget that initially included a deficit of more than $770,000. However, Duchild led the effort last year to reduce that projected deficit to roughly $495,000 by reducing capital improvement expenditures.

“… I’m highly offended by your comments. If you would have just reviewed what you agreed to last year, you would have said that same comments that you said now to yourself …,” Wallach said, noting part of the projected 2015 deficit is a result of the Spellman Avenue project and for public works vehicles that were removed from the 2014 budget.

But Duchild contended approval of the proposed budget with the new planning position and part-time positions would create a long-term liability for the city.

Duchild said, “… This budget is just — it creates a long-term liability for the city, in addition to being out of balance. The number of positions that are being added that are not easily removed in later years, along with the fact that this year’s expenditures are so far under budget, which is a great thing for various reasons — a lot of them had to do with personnel — is going to mean that we are going to spend somewhere between $1 million and $1.5 million more next year than we’re spending this year. So I just think that’s incredible that we’ve gotten by this year doing so well, and next year we’re just going to burn it all and start going backwards …”

Duchild said his comments were sparked by “the fact that you all promised a balanced budget and it wasn’t even close. If it was within $100,000, that would be great. But it wasn’t, and you didn’t even challenge the city administrator on that. That’s where I’m disappointed …”

Ward 4 Alderman Mike Vincent replied that he did challenge Sime at a Nov. 5 budget workshop that Duchild did not attend.

Trueblood later challenged Duchild to identify “the items you want cut from this budget instead of sending it back to administration. Tell us what you think it ought to be … I’m just — I’m flabbergasted with this. There seems to be a continued tone … of animosity towards everybody on this board or anybody who doesn’t fit that certain category that you and (board President) Mr. (Mike) Tsichlis and in some cases, other members of the audience seem to think we ought to fit into. But the reality is we’re trying to run a city here — not into the ground, but operate it in a manner that people can see the benefit of their tax dollars and might agree to pay more in the future sometime— although I seriously doubt that you would support that increase in taxation based on your behavior tonight …”