Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
Budget cuts in dispute
By Amy Kronenberger
ROCKFORD - The 2012 budget did not pass third reading at the village council meeting Tuesday due to disagreements over funding cuts.
Council members voted 3-3, with mayor Amy Joseph casting the dissenting tie-breaking vote.
Joseph said she voted "no" because it was clear the issue was not resolved.
"It was obvious they still had things to discuss," she said. "I wanted to make sure everything was discussed thoroughly and the correct decision was made."
Appropriations for 2012 have been proposed at $409,467, which includes $40,000 in carryover from 2011. Budgeted expenses for this year are $430,127. As of Sept. 30, expenses were $312,390.
Finance committee members cut nearly $70,000 from the general fund for the 2012 budget to offset state funding cuts and eliminate dipping into the carryover.
Council member Steve Gehle said cuts were made to the police, clean-up day, solicitor, auditor and capital equipment funds and Parkway utilities fund, which covers loan payments for a waterline installed during the construction of the new school. That loan now will be paid through the water and sewer funds.
Council members Ron Searight and Chris Heitkamp voted against the proposed budget, disagreeing with the $5,000 cut from the police fund while allowing funding for an on-call employee at the water plant.
"My point is, we're over-staffed in water and sewer," Searight said. "We don't need an on-call employee."
Gehle, who voted yes on the budget, pointed out the water and sewer funds are separate from the general fund and are fully funded by village utility rates.
"Our water and sewer funds are doing fine," he said. "We need to cut from the general fund because that's where we're losing money. We just cut where it's fat in the general fund, and it's fat in the police fund."
Searight said it makes more sense to have an extra part-time police officer than an on-call water employee. Gehle disagreed, saying if an emergency happens with the police, the sheriff will back them up. The water employees have no backup in the event of an emergency.
Searight remained adamant.
"I won't pass anything with that on-call employee," he said. "It's only been in the budget about three years, and I think it's only caused problems."
Council member Gene Steiner voted against the budget, saying he was unhappy the fund for a future swimming pool was cut. The former pool has been demolished and the land turned over to Parkway Local School.
Council members plan to look into the budget further. The next council meeting is 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20.
In other action, council discussed paying the village's portion of upgrading Mercer County's central dispatch consul. Rockford's portion for the project is $1,627.
Gehle said the county based each community's share on the number of calls received. This puts Rockford's share higher than other larger villages like St. Henry.
"We're not happy with our share," he said."We're getting hit the hardest, but we have the smallest budget."
The portions agreed to in other county communities are Celina, $10,629; Coldwater, $2,936; Fort Recovery, $654; and St. Henry, $396.
The sheriff's office is seeking a grant to help pay for the consul. If they do not receive the grant, the communities' share would increase an unknown amount, Gehle said.
Council agreed to invite Celina fire chief Doug Wolters to the next council meeting to discuss the issue.
Council gave first reading for the resolution renewing the contract for Judy Koesters as village solicitor. Koesters agreed to a 50 percent pay cut. If passed, she will receive $200 per month for basic services and $80 per hour for services rendered for litigation or other special projects.
Council gave second reading to amend a utility ordinance so renters pay a $225 deposit before receiving utilities. The deposit would cover costs if the renter leaves before paying a utility bill. The money will be refunded when a renter moves, as long as all bills are paid.
Landlords may request billing to remain in their name and forego the renter's deposit. However, by doing so, the owner assumes responsibility for all utility fees.