City of Monroe
City Hall, Monroe, Louisiana
March 6, 2017
There was a legal special session of the City Council of the City of Monroe, Louisiana held this date at the Council’s regular meeting place, the Council Chamber, City Hall Building, Monroe, Louisiana.
The Honorable Michael Echols, Chairman, called the meeting to order. He then asked the Clerk to call the roll.
There were present: Council members Echols, Ezernack, Woods, Wilson and Clark
There was absent: None.
The Honorable Michael Echols, presiding officer, declared a quorum was present and stated the object of the meeting; that being to consider: (1) The 2017/18 fiscal year budget submitted by the Administration for review by the Council in Budget Hearing #2.
The Budgets discussed were as follows:
1) Public Works
2) Enterprise Funds:
b) Transit System
c) Water & Sewer
3) Internal Service Fund
4) Planning & Urban Development
5) Engineering – Civil & Traffic
6) City Court
7) Community Affairs
8) Other Finance Source Use
9) Enterprise Funds:
a) Civic Center
b) LA Purchase Gardens & Zoo
(And any other items Council many want to revisit.)
The Chairman noted that they will begin the meeting with Public Works and the Mayor requested that the Executive Department be first and then begin at the beginning of the agenda.
The Chairman noted that he had no objection to this and asked if the other council members had any objections and there were none.
Mr. Heard directed the council to page 10.
Mr. Echols asked Mr. Heard for a general overview and then they will ask a few questions.
Mr. Heard, Budget Director, noted that the Mayor’s budget is almost identical to what he had in the current operating year with the exception of one area; the area of economic development he is requesting another position in that area. Other than that, that is about it as it relates to the executive budget.
Mr. Echols noted with there being a vacant position in 2017 obviously there will be some savings in that although incremental for 2017, but that was actual in 2016. So, you are looking for one more position and then filling the existing position.
Mr. Heard noted that is correct it has not been filled and there is an additional position and that is in economic development.
Mr. Echols wanted to know if they anticipate filling that position by the first day in the fiscal year.
Mr. Heard noted by the first quarter of next fiscal year, the first quarter of 2018.
Mr. Echols noted the first 3 months of our fiscal year, not the first quarter of 2017.
Mr. Heard noted the first quarter ends at the end of July.
Mr. Echols wanted to know if you also plan on filling the second position all at the same time.
Mr. Heard said that both positions will be filled.
Mr. Echols noted that there is no group insurance under that group for 16 or 17 did you reported it differently in years prior.
Mr. Heard explained that the previous economic development officer had its own insurance through another source so we did not pay insurance.
Mr. Echols noted so we are adding new positions and new benefits.
The Mayor asked Mr. Heard to go through the whole scenario of cutting the salary plus the overage of the economic development fund where we were giving money to SEDD because all that is lumped in.
Mr. Heard explained that basically what happed or what took place here is that there will be a reduction to the salary of the person that will now have that position initially. The person that vacated that position had a salary of $72,801.00. The two positions that will be there one position will be budgeted at $50,000 and another position will be budgeted at $60,000. The reduction will come in economic development and city expenses. On page 25 there will be a reduction in the current year’s budget there is $379,000 budgeted for economic development expense and in the proposed budget $239,000 was budgeted and $100,000 of that money will go to fund a line item for SEDD. There will also be a $40,000 reduction to our Lobbyists payment.
Mr. Echols wanted to know who that $40,000 reduction to the Lobbyists payments dollar amount goes to and what that currently is.
Mr. Barnes, Director of Administration, noted that it goes to the Monroe Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Echols noted that we are going to reduce that and he wanted to know the current contract now with the Monroe Chamber for that Lobbying Services.
Mr. Barnes said it was $90,000.
Mr. Echols noted that this is reduced to $50,000 and are there any estimated changes within that contract.
Mayor Mayo noted that it’s just one firm is cheaper than the other; they will do essentially the same thing, but the City will probably get more.
Mr. Echols noted that they have netted up with what the $239,000 and the $379,000, so the difference is 140,000 not really netting revenue neutral exactly because when you throw in all the fringe on top of it, it adds a little extra to the whole cost of those changes but you have savings everywhere else you are reallocating for this.
Mr. Heard noted that actually with everything said and done the executive department budget will go up about by $44,000 in comparison to what’s budgeted for the current year. The difference is with the salary and the benefit cost.
Mayor Mayo noted that the big difference is that SEDD will be receiving $100,000 which they have not received which will be line item. There will be a reduction in our Lobbying of essentially $40,000 and the Chamber was paying $10,000, so that in effect will be $50,000 from the $60,000.
Mr. Echols wanted to know how many positions were in the Public Relations Department.
Mr. Heard said there are 3 positions in Public Relations.
Mr. Echols wanted to know under supplies the Marketing Monroe and what all does that category represent.
Mr. Heard noted that the Television expenses are posted there.
Mr. Echols noted that there is a contract with the gentlemen that records all our meetings is that part of what is referred to. What is that contract per year?
Mr. Barnes noted that off the top of his head he couldn’t say. For marketing Monroe all the advertising and stuff that’s where they go on the marketing side that they do. Rod can get you a list of what all they do.
Mr. Echols noted so that falls under Public Relations and their marketing efforts and all their contracts.
Mr. Banes said yes.
Mrs. Stacey Haynie-Rowell noted that the Mayor’s budget did increase $44,000, but giving that $40,000 net back to city expense it really netting about $4,000.
Tom Janway, Director, noted that public works consist of the public works director division, sanitation division and street division. If you look at the bottom-line expenses on page 41 they are basically flat. It looks like it is about $30,000 less this coming up year.
Mr. Echols wanted to know if that was enough to execute his job.
Mr. Janway noted that in order to continue doing what they have been doing they will just have to get more efficient and get meaner and meaner.
Mr. Echols wanted Mr. Janway to talk about equipment, repairs and maintenance because that is an ongoing issue.
Mr. Janway noted as it relates to equipment they are aging and any time you deal with that as it gets older you are going to spend more on them. They will probably have to make cuts in some areas to make up for this, but that’s all part of a pretty complex equation because you never know what fuel prices are going to do. The last two year fuel really has gotten above about half of what it was 3 years ago and it has kind of balance back up a little bit, so there are several things that are going to change that equation. He has already met with some of the supervisors within the sanitation division and explained to them. They normally start gearing up, but some years are different than others and with the warms days the grass is growing so they have been actively out mowing. They will have to do more with less and that is the bottom line.
Mr. Heard noted that part of the reason it has been less funding in Public Works budget this year in the proposed budget than in the current operating year is due to the fact that they had to put more money into the Transit for transfers.
Mr. Wilson wanted to know how much they have in Capital for vehicles.
Mr. Janway said that they have 105 that have been recommended in the Street Division.
Mr. Wilson wanted to know what a garbage truck cost.
Mr. Janway noted that in the last 10 years they have been able to replace their garbage trucks on a 5 year replacement schedule and they run in the range of $175 to $200 thousand dollar now. The last ones they traded in were over 5 years old and he has always bid them with a buy back option and he asked for a trade in value on the last one and he got about $5,000 more per truck by doing a trade in verses a buy back option. Whenever they get ready and those monies that finance those trucks is on a 5 year lease agreement he believes or loan arrangement. He has not gotten with Mr. Barnes yet but he didn’t realize it they are coming up on 5 years this year because we do have new garbage trucks proposed in the upcoming budget year.
Mr. Wilson wanted to know if they are running full capacity with the trucks, garbage trucks, vehicles.
Mr. Janway noted that they have 7 scheduled routes and on days they are only able to run 6 for various reasons whether it would be equipment down, they have 4 spares, and or manpower. Manpower is still a significant problem at $10 an hour and he noticed last week they had 10 temporary employees in garbage alone just to maintain one day’s route.
Mr. Wilson noted that they did a study on pay scales where everyone was and he asked if Mr. Janway knew anything about that.
Mr. Janway noted that he was not a part of that study.
Mr. Wilson noted that is something he will need to talk to the Mayor about because they need to look into something like that because he is getting calls and he knows $10 an hour is good, but those that have been there making $10.15 he knows we have a problem so he hopes Administration will look at it eventually so they can try to get those guys up.
Ms. Woods wanted to know how many trucks are in her fleet for garbage trucks.
Mr. Janway noted that they maintain about 1,000 pieces of equipment for the City, but just the garbage trucks, they have a fleet. They bought 8 new ones, they run 7 routes and then they kept 3 of the older ones so they have 11 garbage trucks.
Ms. Woods noted that you did say you didn’t have adequate staff to run those.
Mr. Janway noted that didn’t have adequate staff to run those 7 routes on some days and sometimes it’s because of staffing and sometimes it’s equipment.
Ms. Woods wanted to know how many employees they have in Public Works.
Mr. Janway noted that all totals including all enterprise funds and he doesn’t have the current summary with him and he thinks what Ms. Woods is asking is how many in sanitation and that would approximately 120 to 125 budgeted positions permanent jobs and approximately 20 budgeted seasonal employees.
Ms. Wood wanted to know of those 125 budgeted positions if they were filled.
Mr. Janway said no and that it is like a revolving door if you look at the jobs that are open from HR 85% of those jobs are Public Works and about half are Sanitation. At any point in time they have 35 to 40 vacancies in Public Works, but they work a lot of agency people to file the gaps.
Mr. Wilson noted that Mr. Janway requested an amount of dollars for demolition and with Fight the Blight can you work with that small amount.
Mr. Janway noted that he is familiar with it, but the effect of that is other than what he has been told there seems to be more property owners that are taking care of their properties. When it comes to house demolition right now they have taken down about 31 or 32 houses and he expect by April 30th they will be right at 50 houses that they have taken down. It won’t be one that has been taken down voluntarily by the property owners.
Mr. Echols wanted to go to subdivision 1014 Forsythia and talk him through what Forsythe does.
Mr. Janway explained that Forsythe takes care of all of the parks and the ball fields in the city with the exception of Chennault Park and the park over across from ULM back in there off of South College. That is maintained by the Chennault Maintenance personnel.
Mr. Echols noted that he knows you have 3 or 4 person crews that go to different parks throughout the City and we have roughly 30 plus parks as he understands it.
Mr. Janway said that is correct.
Mr. Echols wanted to know if this line item budget takes care of all 30 plus or minus those two you described before.
Mr. Janway said that’s correct.
Mr. Echols noted that in 2016 the actual is a lot of temporary wages this year probably less in temporary wages and what was the spike in $282,000 in 2016 to where we are today.
Mr. Janway noted that it was a carry-over from a flood.
Mr. Echols noted that there was a department that asked for $455,000 in accidents.
Mr. Janway noted that was misstate it should be capital.
Mr. Echols noted that Beautification went up about a position or 2 and he wanted to know what’s going on there.
Mr. Janway noted that they are going from an amended budget of $560,000 down to $511,000 they moved some funds around within the division. You have to look at the temporary employees under that and he is rolling them up. All it is a $50,000 reduction and they did move personnel from one subdivision to another.
Mr. Echols noted that there is some vacation pay under this but not in any other category.
Mr. Janway noted that there is vacation pay in all subdivision but that is just the amount just in this division.
Mr. Heard explained that the amounts posting in those particular columns are the times that the employees actually take off is budgeted under salaries and wages regularly. They budget employee salaries based upon 2,080 hours, which is a 40 hour week, 52 weeks out of a year and when it post it will actually post down through there.
Mrs. Ezernack wanted to know under the ditching category if they shifted some personnel.
Mr. Janway said not that their budget amendment in 2017 was $644,000 and that is the same for 2018.
Mrs. Ezernack noted that it was a big jump from 2016.
Mr. Janway noted as Mr. Heard explained that anytime there’s vacation or sick time taken it is subtracted from that salaries and wages line item. The only way it would be exactly the same would be comparing actuals to the budget would be if nobody took it annual leave or sick.
Mrs. Ezernack noted that she was hoping you had some new folks over there.
Mr. Janway noted if you are looking at it actually 2016 was $674,000 and what’s budgeted is $646,000 and the current budget year we are in is $648,000.
Mr. Echols noted hypothetically for example we would lose a large tax payer, we have another storm or something changes in the budget and it takes a hit; if you were to have a reduction in your budget would you still be able to operate effectively under the current frame work 5%, 10% if one of those events happened.
Mr. Janway noted that they did a hell of a job and they are going to pull up their boot straps and do the best job they can with what they got.
Airport – Ron Phillips, Director
Mr. Phillips noted that their budget this year is pretty flat and similar to the last couple of years. They are projecting revenues of approximately $3.8 million verse expenses of $3.7 million and they plan to end the year with a surplus of $114, 000.
Mr. Echols noted that he knows that they have several projects that the Administration has been working on within the airport and the Airport Industrial Park. Are any of those rental revenues that you are anticipating from things like the solar farm or other projects included in the numbers?
Mr. Phillips noted that they did not include those.
Mr. Echols wanted to know where you would include those.
Mr. Phillips said those would be in the Industrial Park Revenue.
Mr. Echols noted that it show he has a sale of land and is that a particular site that they approved at a recent council meeting that will close.
Mr. Phillips noted that they have several sales on land that they are trying to close on like Sol, Tisdale Properties and JEF – Icy Properties and they anticipate selling a couple of other properties that’s not mentioned at this point.
Mr. Echols wanted to know if that $40, 000 is a good number to budget or are you under budgeting.
Mr. Phillips said he thought it was a good number and it also includes Joe Banks who is looking to purchase some property in the Air Industrial Park.
Marc Keenan – Director
Mr. Echols noted that under federal grants they are noting in 2016 $1.2 million federal grant and in 2017 amended budget $1.75 million; and now you are estimating $1.4 million. Why the large discrepancy between federal grant programs and did they change or gone down.
Mr. Janway explained that in this current budget year in maintenance grants that they received for Transit is in the range of about $1.6 or $1.7 million. They are in the process of releasing 2/3 of that or $897,000 it’s currently in the Department of Labor. It is expected to be there one more week if they have no objections to the grant and they never have had any objection. They will be able to draw down $800,000 out of the $897,000 and what that does is leave out the remaining 1/3 of that grant. The grant is made up of 3 components Capital for buses/vehicles/equipment and that’s the $97,000 in that and then the operation part of that grant is broken up into 2 components one is pure operations there is a 50/50 match on the pure operational part then there is a Capital Maintenance component of that grant and that is matched 80/20. He believes that the straight Capital Vehicle is 85/15, so you have 3 distinct components of that $1.6 or $1.7 million grant. What they are not going to get in this budget year unless all the stars line correctly they are not going to get that $460,000. Also when it comes to grants the indirect federal grant of $360,000 which was a budgeted JART Grant and it doesn’t look like they are going to receive that either. There’s just no money and that’s what funds our night ridership.
Mr. Echols wanted to know if that’s why they have had to transfer so much into.
Mr. Janway noted that with a couple of expenditures and what he is projecting right now is $685,000 additional to be transferred in and of that the remaining 1/3 of that grant mentioned earlier that would be $460,000 and that would leave $200,000 a balance in the revenue verse the expenditures. This year they took a big over a $100,000 hit on workman comp that was over and above what was budgeted. We also had a contract with GCR which did our preliminary design for a new terminal and that was paid out of this budget year that was not budgeted. There was an oil spill that cost us another $60,000, so when you look at all those components there we would be a lot closer than where we are today.
Mr. Echols wanted some clarification from Mr. Heard and asked if that goes back and forth between his budget worksheet with the administration prepared and then his weekly budget update that he get from the administration and he look at the federal grant category and it should that our budget numbers don’t look like what they look like in this book compared to what they are showing in this book. They all should roll out of the same reporting system shouldn’t they, for example, the budgeted year to date transactions and he is just looking at prior years that you guys have reported here showing what, one, the budget amount were or transaction were the year prior 2016 and were we are actual in the 2016/17 budget year which in here it shows total federal grant not direct federal grants. The direct federal grants category is $379,000 here to date and he is assuming that’s third of about $900,000 you are talking about.
Mr. Janway noted that they haven’t drawn down any grants.
Mr. Echols wanted to know if they had accrual or post it when you are about to pull it down.
Mr. Heard noted that those are actually posted when they are received.
Mr. Dan Richard, Accountant, noted that it starts at the fiscal year when we get the money.
Mrs. Stacy Haynie-Rowell noted that they don’t care about our year end schedule and they have a different time schedule, which is October to September. So if they lag around and not fund the grant until the middle of April and some time we may not be able to draw our money until even though we have eligible expense if they have not approved that grant to be drawn down then we can’t do anything with it until they approve it and release the funds. A lot of times that happens after our fiscal year and we got caught on that about 4 or 5 years ago and we had to do an extra-large transfer right at year end because we were not able to draw those funds down like we thought we were going to be able to do. So with all that being said a lot of this has to do with timing.
Mr. Janway noted that what they will do when they get the remaining portion of that grant is Dan will identify the date and time where they can go back and seek reimbursement, so even if we get the grant in May or June they will go back to whatever date that expenditures have not been matched and they will collect those. They give 4 years to spend these grants, but spend them as quickly as they get them.
Mrs. Stacy Haynie-Rowell explained the information to Mr. Echols on the handouts he was looking from for clarification.
Mr. Echols asked Mr. Janway if he felt conservative with those numbers that they could meet this budget.
Mr. Janway noted that at the year end, they will require additional $685,000 transfer-in than what was budgeted.
Mr. Echols noted under bus operator they are proposing $1,050,000, how many positions is that.
Mr. Marc Keenan, Transit Director, explained that they have anywhere between 45 and 49 bus operators.
Mr. Heard noted that it is 32 budgeted full-time positions and a total of 30 budgeted full-time positions of bus operators.
Mr. Echols wanted to know what the supplies category for the buses accomplishes.
Mr. Keenan explained that was for bus parts.
Mr. Echols noted that total expenses in your division is going up $600,000, 2016 is $5,960,000 and for 2018 budget well 2017 you are going up another $700 or $800 thousand.
Mr. Janway noted that is correct.
Mr. Echols noted that you said in Transit you are only estimating a transfer-in of $600,000 for the next fiscal year.
Mr. Janway noted that for this fiscal year $685,000 is what they are projecting.
Mr. Echols noted but next year.
Mr. Janway noted that next year the transfer-in number is $2.6 million per Mr. Heard in the proposed budget.
Sean Benton, Water Distrib. Superintendent
Mr. Echols wanted to know what penalties and interest encompass.
Mr. Barnes noted that those were re-connecting fees and late fees, etc.
Mr. Echols wanted to know if they are estimating those going down in next fiscal year by 20 percent.
Mr. Heard noted that they are using the information provided by them from the department and that is the number they gave us. They only did $326,000 for all of fy2016 so $315,000 was a more conservative figure than they have in the current budget year.
Mr. Echols noted if we are doing $235,000 he don’t know what they are doing actual and he has not pulled the report.
Mr. Janway noted that generally when those numbers are project they are doing it in November between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so they are looking at 5 or 6 months of numbers to project off of.
Mr. Echols further noted that it is post summers too, so numbers look higher than they do in the winter and spring.
Mr. Barnes noted that also in 2016 you got to understand they had the flood and there is a lot you get penalized for because they were under the water.
Mr. Echols noted that he just want to make sure from a budgeting standpoint we are conservative with our estimates and not project revenue and end up cutting at the end of the year to try to keep our budget and maintenance.
Mr. Barnes noted that they are very conservative and that’s why he stay on them and re-connect fees etc. We get in trouble when we put too high a fee in there.
Mrs. Ezernack noted that in the last couple of years the chemical supply budget has gone up and up and she wanted to know if they are continuing to see that trend of those prices going up.
Mr. Sean Benton, Superintendent, said that number fluctuate up and down a little bit, but it has gradually been going up due to new regulations by DHH as far as chemical balances and stuff. The past year they went up a little because they started using more Chorine and ammonia in the pump stations itself and our remote stations. We try to make that point to fight that ameba situation that they were having prior to that and also when you look at taste of the water and certain chemicals are increased during the summer months to better see for taste and odor issues also. The chemical processes tend to change from season to season and of this past year during the flood around March the chemical treatment process drastically changed overall and the process changed and with it also additional more chemicals and more trial and error situations.
Mrs. Ezernack noted that those are reflected in your numbers.
Mr. Benton said yes and they do have room in that overall budget number for chemical and that is one of their most important numbers on the treatment side to make sure they have enough chemicals. They do have the sound numbers for chemical.
Mr. Echols wanted to know if he feels on the budgeted of revenues under water sales residential and it looks like your trend was $2.2 million in 2016, budgeted 2.5 million in 2017, but you have come down by several hundred thousands, 20% in 2018, any reasoning behind the decline.
Mr. Benton explained that in the water industry people tend to conserve a little bit more overall and once other bills star going up everybody tend to want to cut back on water. So you start seeing that number go down a little bit, but it picks itself back up in the summer months when people start watering their yards etc. There was an increase on the water side and what happens is when you are dealing with sprinkler systems the more yellow water is going to be on the sewer side of that point.
Mr. Echols wanted to know if they are installing more taps each month.
Mr. Benton said it was flat right now and it normally pick up around the summer months. The sprinkler taps pick up pretty good and is good for new developments and once they come in it does well for us.
Mr. Echols noted that we are estimating our residential sales to go down, but the water bulk sales to go up.
Mr. Benton said that is correct because of those companies we are selling water to are pulling more water.
Mr. Echols noted that the reconnect fees 2016 were $160,000, you budgeted $100,000 in 2017 and $100,000 more than that for the next fiscal year. Are we seeing that many reconnect?
Mr. Barnes replied yes.
Mr. Echols noted so that has nothing to do with that first line item of fees that we talked about and it is broken out over here.
Mr. Barnes replied that it deals with the reconnect service turn on; basically, it’s because they are doing a better job of getting them turned off. They have automatic readers so they have service men rather than meter readers. We still have a problem with reconnect because people are just not paying their bills.
Mr. Wilson wanted to know about the drop box when citizens drop it in on a Saturday how early do they check it on a Monday morning.
Mr. Barnes noted that it is the first thing when the cashiers come in and anybody in the drop box they pull it off the reconnect list.
Mr. Echols noted that he is assuming there is a correlation between penalties, interest and the reconnect; you would think the higher your penalties and interest are the higher your reconnect is going to be because you are going to receive more.
Mr. Barnes noted not necessarily the penalty and interest are based on people not paying their bills and we charging interest on it, as far as, reconnect fees; that’s why they go out there like you are saying.
Mr. Echols noted after they don’t pay their bill turn it off and reconnect and it adds up.
Mr. Barnes noted that it adds up but we hope it doesn’t because it adds up to people not paying their bills. It’s down from the past because the new meter give us a better asset to find out what account needs to be cut off. It used to be almost a month to 2 month before someone was cut off now we got it down to a month, so you don’t have the penalty stacking up.
Charles Westrom, Sewer Manager
Mrs. Ezernack wanted to know about waste water permits in 2016 there was a large amount of actuals and it was budgeted less than half. She wanted to know if those are slowing down.
Mr. Westrom noted that was based on their projections that were done in November on actual revenue and at that time it had slowed down some; they just wanted to be conservative.
Internal Service Fund:
Mr. Echols wanted to know what all Internal Service Funds do.
Mr. Janway noted that this is their central maintenance department, repairs on all city equipment and vehicles with the exception of the fire department.
Mr. Echols noted that you operate this as a cost and revenue center everything flows through.
Mr. Janway said that is correct.
Mr. Echols wanted to know how many employees are in this division.
Mr. Janway said there were 22 employees.
Mr. Wilson wanted to know the turnover rate with the mechanic.
Mr. Janway noted that the turnover rate is very high and out of the 22 employees we have had as many as 6 vacancies. You just can’t hire a descent mechanic for $13 and $14 dollars an hour. We do pick up contract labor and that helps as much as it can and then when we are over loaded we just have to job shop. At that point the individual or department will pick up the total cost of whatever that repair bill will be.
Planning and Urban Development:
Chris Fisher, Director
Mr. Echols wanted to know how many employees are in that division.
Mr. Heard noted that in the Director’s division there are 2; Planning and Zoning there are 4.
Mrs. Ezernack wanted to know how many employees are in Code Enforcement.
Mr. Heard noted there were 9 employees.
Mr. Echols noted that their budget from last year to this year was pretty close, but 2016 to 2018 budget was there another position.
Mr. Wilson wanted to know about Fight the Blight and Environment Court; the fines it was said that they were going to split that money up. He wanted to know if anything was going toward Code Enforcement.
Mr. Heard noted that money is going into the general fund and the general fund is funding the salaries and Code Enforcement. That goes into the revenue side of the general fund and those monies are used for salaries.
Mr. Wilson noted that their jobs have increased and he spoke with the attorneys about it and they were trying to put some funds over there for them.
Mr. Heard noted that there was a small decrease because there was a change from an employee when someone left and they had to fill that position. The person came in making less than the predecessor, but the money out of the general fund and used to budget the salaries.
Mr. Echols noted that on the code enforcement side you have 9 employees but they did roll out a whole new program this year state of the art dynamic fight the blight and he asked if she would need more people to help execute that vision.
Mrs. Catherine Robinson, Chief Code Enforcement Officer,
Mr. Barnes noted that he does not know of any.
Mr. Echols wanted to know how we execute this new plan that they have rolled out.
Mr. Heard noted that they have no new positions budgeted for.
Mrs. Ezernack noted if that would be something that came up if needed be with an amendment at some point if a new person was need.
Mr. Heard noted if an additional person was needed yes it would have to be done by an amendment provided the funding is available. The funding may be available depending upon revenue generated through the fight the blight operation.
Mr. Echols noted that if you go back to when we first talked about that we did estimate that there would be $100,000 or several $100,000 generated in additional fees. We changed the fee scheduled and doubled that and that may roll into the general fund, but are we dedicating any of those dollars to actually the program.
Mr. Barnes noted that they are not that he knows of.
Mr. Heard noted that that money will come into environmental court and if the environmental court numbers would increase and they will have the ability to come in and add additional staffing. They are really trying to see what type of revenues will be generated before they go out and obligate additional funding.
Mrs. Ezernack noted that it will be tracked to kind of know where it is at some point even though it won’t appear.
Mr. Heard noted that they are looking at it constantly on a monthly basis at a minimum and it comes in on the general fund side and if the general fund revenue has increased and they need additional staffing that is an area that they will have to look into.
Mr. Echols noted that the fee increase took place as of January 1st of this year so any new additional fees are starting to roll in if they are working through the legal channels. It’s not part of the budgeting process, but I would ask that the Administration bring before the council some idea of what of those revenues that they are bringing in instead of just going to the general fund and spend them on whatever we are going to spend then on that they actually be dedicated, some of them toward the program itself. (Fight the Blight)
Mr. Wilson wanted to know if each officer had its own vehicle.
Mrs. Robinson noted that she has one that’s sharing a vehicle, she has (3) 2008 Durango’s, (1) 1995 Ford Ranger and 2005 Cavalier.
Mr. Wilson noted that the reason he asked was that he made a suggestion to the Mayor a year ago that maybe each of you need your own vehicle and for 5 districts he would like to see the officers out in the districts and public works get vehicles and he thinks Code Enforcement should get vehicles as well. Also he knows this Fight the Blight is pretty important to this city, this council and you all as well. You are on the grounds and we need you to be equipped to do your jobs and ask for more money for your area. Mr. Wilson thanked Mrs. Robinson and her entire staff for what they do.
John Ross, Director
Mr. Echols wanted to know how many positions are under the Director’s tab.
Mr. Heard noted that there are 2 positions.
Ms. Kim Golden, City Engineer
Mr. Clark noted as it relates to Engineering and he knows he emailed her about a week in a half ago and he is sure your received it and probably been busy. His question related to the engineering project on hwy165 the lighting project. They have been inquiring about that for a couple of years and they haven’t gotten a thorough update in a while and he doesn’t think that part of the project is part of the budgeting as it relates to your department. Mr. Clark wanted to know where they are in really truly trying to make this happen.
Ms. Golden explained that this is definitely still a project, it is still in the urban system program; unfortunately we have a number of new projected dumped on them as a result of the flood about a dozen. The sidewalk project has been pushed out and that is one of the ones that have been pushed out, so it is probably now 2018 time frame for that project to get done.
Mr. Clark noted to the Chairman that he expressed particular concern with this light projects because hotels and businesses are down on 165 south asking for the different lighting. Mr. Clark noted that he don’t know how they are going to address it before he vote on this budget but he has particular concerns about the project. If there is any way we can find funding whether it be through Capital Infrastructure he is going to ask at some point that become a priority; he voted for a lot of things in a lot of areas, but this is something that he can no longer allow just keep been kicked down the road and it is not even on the board for 2018 and we are just starting 2017. Mr. Clark noted that he doesn’t know what other situation would likely arise in 2018 that would cause it to be put down or kicked down the road to 2020, so at some point it just has to become a priority. Mr. Clark noted that he has reservations with this budget right now until certain things are addressed specifically for our constituents whether it’s through budget amendments Mr. Heard or however we need to do it but there have been times in the past that we have been assured through budget amendments that things would happen and they happened so and he appreciate that. Mr. Clark looks forward to getting with the administration at some point to address this particular project to light up 165 south as the east is lite up, as the north is lite up and there are other projects relative to Districts 3, 4 and 5 that we need to be brought to the table on. Also they need to be brought to the table on as it relates to any developments going on in our district and he is hearing all kinds of stuff about projects going on and the councilmen or women representing these districts not even at the table. Mr. Clark noted that he knows that is a lot Ms. Golden but he appreciate the overlay on Jackson Street, but if we can at least get some additional project on the table and it’s all about the constituents, it’s all about the tax payers getting the bang for their buck. Again thank you for all you do, but I’m sure everybody will agree that there are still work to be done, thank.
Mr. Clark wanted to know from last year’s budget amendments what was able to be done for City Court. (physical improvements)
Mr. Heard noted that he don’t know specifically what was done.
Mr. Clark noted that he know that there was a problem with mole, with people being sick, raining in side and the carpet; the Administration assured us and he remember voting on the budget amendment which allowed certain improvements to take place.
Judge Joyce noted that he is trying to remember what’s been this year and what was last year, but he had some concerns on security and they got new security system. They finally got the Medal Detector in operation and they did have a bad roof leak that has all been fixed, but he don’t think some of the carpet has been replaced where some of the water was. They don’t have anything leaking and everything has been repaired and he would say for the most part in the last year or two what they have asked for has been provided.
Mr. Clark noted that as it related to the women and men working at city court and how they are being compensated relative to other departments etc.
Judge Joyce noted that when they did the $10 an hour for everybody our people don’t all make $10 an hour and whatever city employee make $10 an hour they don’t have that in the budget to have. To the most part we try to do a raise anytime money is given to them from the Administration to put through to the clerks, probation department, etc. There are still some over there making less than $10 an hour and they hear everybody make $10 an hour and it’s tough because you are not really a city employee.
Mr. Heard noted that has it relates to the $10 dollars an hours it was for full-time employees, city court had only one full-time employee that was making less than $10 an hour and he was raised up to $10 an hours.
Judge Joyce noted that they do have a part-time employee making less and a few people making less than $10 an hour. The turnover is pretty high frankly because of the pay and we get in a situation it been something he has thought about and we got second interviews coming for a clerk because I think some of this is going to help with a clerk. Even in situation when someone is making $10 an hour and you give them an offer and they come in and you say I have seen that employee in court a couple of times and he and she seems to know what they are doing I offer them $11 an hour. Offering $11 an hour with no benefits, no retirement, but they hear $11 an hour and he thinks it would help if the clerk says you understand $11 an hour verses $12 an hour with benefits, with retirement in place and with insurance all these things are expensive and you are not making $11 an hour your making a lot more than that but you just kind of get that. It might be something that other departments have and it seems that it happens to our department all the times and they get porched off by someone else.
Mr. Clark wanted to know if we address this at some point through a budget amendment do we have an anticipated amount that it would take to rectify anyone over there who is full-time and not up to at least $10 an hours.
Mr. Heard noted that according to the system and it is his understanding that the system will not allow a full time employee to make less than $10 an hour.
Mr. Clark noted to Judge Joyce substitutive to whatever degree you can if you have anyone.
Mr. Heard noted that one it was implemented there was one employee and they did increase that employee salary up to $10 an hour for this current budget year. We have part-time employees that make less than $10 an hour and I don’t know if that is the case with City Court, but he knows what’s in the City itself we do have part-time. Mr. Heard noted that he don’t think their system will allow full-time employee to make less than $10 an hour.
Mr. Clark noted that he accept his representation and he just wanted since that was put out there on the record to whatever extinct you can Judge Joyce if you have anyone over there that’s making less than $10 an hour who is full-time if you can get Mr. Heard their names so that we can get them up where they need to be. Whether it is done through budget amendment of however you think it’s best just let us know.
Judge Joyce noted that he thinks it has been 3 years since they have had a raise and trying to get more money for their employees. The Judges can probably handle it and the judges haven’t has a raise in like 14 or 15 years and they are accustomed to that’s not going to happen. Judge Joyce noted that he would mind seeing the clerk personnel get as much money as they can.
Mr. Clark noted that with that being said with the Clerk’s Office along and notwithstanding the judges at this point the Clerk’s Office to raise them minimally or commissary with the same percentage that other city employees get; what would be a cost estimate of that and we are not talking about a lot of people working in the Clerk’s Office.
Mr. Heard noted that they will have to go in and know first of all what they are making and the number of employees we are talking about. As far as our employees are concerned they have not had a percent increase in about 2 years. It was in 2014 or 15 the court themselves gave pay increases to those employees though they had to reimburse the general fund. Those pay increases were ran through our system and they were reimbursing us.
Judge Joyce noted that they are still doing that because they did not get the last city bump up and they heard enough bark back on it. We got like what Mr. Echols is talking about they are using really a known growing fund to supplement them and saying we are going to give you all a raise within our system and reimburse the City back. That fund is not growing but every month they are reimbursing the City back because we have to give them something. I don’t like to put up a recurring expense on something that’s not growing. It is a pretty sizable account now but it’s only a matter of time before it goes away if it’s not growing and it’s going out every month it’s going to go down.
Mr. Clark asked that the Judge give Mr. Heard and Mr. Barnes the number of people in the Clerk’s Office whether it’s 10, 15 or 20 so that he can give the Council the cost to give them the percentage increase that’s commissary with what the other department’s got whether it was 2 or 3 percent. Again, we are talking gas money at the end of the day, but it’s somebody else gas money and if it is a nominal number maybe that is something we can do through a budget amendment at the appropriate time. We are not talking about a lot of money here.
Mr. Heard noted that they did in essence about 2011 or 12 ended up giving the City Court employees a pay increase, it was not our intent because they gave their employees a pay increase and they were supposed to reimburse the general fund and they did not get reimbursed for those. The City ended up having to right that off to the tune of $48 to $50 thousand dollars at that given time. The City has been eating that for several fiscal years.
Judge Joyce noted that we bring that up every year and we sat down with the Mayor and Mrs. Summersgill and apologized for that and they are going to start forward after the last fault. I don’t know how many times we are going to bring this up and we did give them a raise and it wasn’t reimbursed but we been doing it every time since then. He think that an invoice was not being sent over to City Court for this and that’s why they weren’t paying them they weren’t getting an invoice; how does this go by without them knowing. We are talking 5 or 6 years ago about what Mr. Heard just said and right now we are giving them a reimbursement they are just coming out of a fund that does not grow.
Mr. Heard noted that reimbursement is coming from a pay increase that was giving the city court employees in 2014. Basically the one that was given to them in 2011 the City has eaten that pay increase every year since then.
Mrs. Stacey Haynie-Rowell noted that in reference to the other city employees have gotten from what point because we have already said we have not received one in 2 years, so to what point do we go back to get this percent is what we are trying to clarify. How do we quantify what you are asking us to do?
Mr. Clark noted that if they haven’t gotten it in 2 year the 2 or 3 percent.
Mr. Stacey Haynie-Rowell noted that they were getting 2% for several years on May 1 and then they came in and gave themselves about a 10% raise.
Mr. Heard noted that their pay increases were larger than 2%.
Judge Joyce strongly says it wasn’t to 10% and he doesn’t know anybody that got a 10% raise. It was a matter of what the Mayor’s plan was 5 years at 2%. When you get your people that are never getting that your 2 or 3 comes by you got to do something and like I say they are getting poached off anyway.
Mr. Clark noted that he wants to be as fair as possible.
Mrs. Stacey Haynie-Rowell noted that you have to take in consideration what they have already been given. She further noted that she also need to clarify to at this point that it has been make clear to us by the Auditors they are not our employees and we are not supposed to sign off on their status changes other than as a curiosity, so keep that in mind that we really have been told that they are not our employees.
Judge Joyce noted except that the Mayor has to sign off on everything that happens.
Mr. Clark noted to Mr. Heard even if you can’t do it all in one fiscal setting let go back and put our heads together and see what is a good point to go back to Mrs. Haynie taking into consideration what they have already received whether it’s 3% or another 4% and he don’t know what that number is but he knows with the number of employees over there it probably won’t be a substantial figure for us to get to by a budget amendment.
Mr. Heard noted that chances are you are absolutely right because one again he thinks their pay increases were more than 2% so this gap may not be nearly as large as a lot of people may think it would be.
Mr. Clark noted that we can agree on that.
Mr. Heard noted that there is one thing that we have asked for the last 2 years that’s still not being done. In addition to what the other employees get the court supplement the judges pay each pay day by $300, we have asked for the last 2 fiscal years to be reimbursed for what the judges pay at the same time we are being reimbursed for their other employees that work over there and that has not happened yet. It would help us greatly if we can get all those monies at one time and it would make it easier for us to account for it.
Mr. Echols noted that we can work through these challenges and we’ll get there as Council Clark noted.
Mr. Echols noted that in 2016 City Court Fines were $736,000 and then in 2017 $630,000 and it looks like the court fines are down about $100 to $150 thousand year over year. Are we budgeting forward are we coming in too high on our revenue and do we need budget down because that is going to trickle down and impact a lot of things.
Judge Joyce noted that it becomes that issue and he can’t control what comes in his courtroom, how many tickets are written or anything like that. Can’t control the number of people that goes to Pre-Trial Diversion again we are in a dispute over that because it is supposed to be 80% that comes back to City Court, but City Court gets 0% on it right now. That fund is growing some where we probably put about 20 people in Pre-Trial Diversion and that’s $750 and that’s $2,750.00 today that City Court didn’t get. Pre-Trail Diversion got and I can’t control that and the number of people they did in Diversion make his number go down. You do away with Diversion his numbers go up or give that money to City Court and I will do these raises and everything we talked about right now.
Mr. Echols wanted to know if he feels like we are over estimating the budget for city court fines based on the current conditions that you are seeing.
Judge Joyce noted that he didn’t know and he really don’t know answer that question, you would probably have to look at it on a month to month thing. It doesn’t really trend and you don’t say in April there are a ton more tickets then there are in February.
Mr. Echols noted that it has been averaging out about $43,800 a month and in January’s budget report it was $38,000 and change. Mr. Echols is trying to trend it out with the few month they have remaining and it looks like we are going to be about $130 or $150 short.
Judge Joyce noted one thing he just thought of as people taxes come in they pay the fines and cost better usually March and April might be some of your better months on people who have outstanding fines come in and pay them. December is always low because it’s Christmas etc.
Mr. Echols noted that it is 5:30 and there is a meeting next so we will adjourn for tonight and schedule another meeting March 14, 2017 @ 4:30pm.
The budgets were reviewed and discussed.
Departments not discussed were carried over to the next meeting.
There being no further business to come before the council, the meeting was adjourned at 5:30 p.m. Upon motion of Mr. Clark and seconded by Ms. Woods.
Carolus S. Riley
For extended details on the council meeting please call the Council Clerk Monday-Friday at 318-329-2252 to schedule an appointment to listen to the minutes.