Mt. Pleasant council wrangles with balancing budget,
but stops short of completing task
By James Tilson
- PLEASANT—The Mt. Pleasant City Council wrangled among itself about how best to deal with the city’s future growth and management, before compromising on the direction of the city’s new budget.
The council’s desire to hire a new employee for the city public works department was met with contention as the mayor, council and audience disagreed on whether the city could truly afford such a new hire.
At the beginning of the meeting, Financial Director David Oxman handed out two new proposed budgets, which the city staff had worked on since the last council meeting. While the proposed budget presented at the last meeting had in the red by more than $100,000, the two new budgets were either balanced or over budget by only $16,903.
Mayor Sandra Bigler started by saying the council’s proposed new position could not be paid $20 per hour as they suggested and still balance the budget. She proposed paying the position only $14 per hour.
Councilman Kevin Stallings said the council wanted to have an employee specifically in charge of municipal buildings. Stallings did not want to add to Public Works Director Sam Draper’s work load. He said that the council’s idea would work by having “key people” in positions over particular responsibilities, and then have the city sub-contract out what cannot be covered.
Stallings specifically thought grounds maintenance could be sub-contracted out to outside companies, freeing up city workers for less mundane responsibilities.
Every time something breaks or has to be fixed, the city has to pull workers from other projects, and it results in delays, Stalling said.
Stallings addressed Bigler. “We [the council] have monitored this for four years. We have a real concern about this. We feel the city buildings are being neglected.”
Bigler repeated her concern that the city just didn’t have the money for a new employee.
Out of the five persons employed by public works now, the city could take one of those persons and have them work exclusively on building maintenance, Stallings explained. Starting with budget “B” which was $16,903 over budget, the city could reduce the new employee’s salary from $20 per hour to $18 per hour, thus saving $7,000. On top of that, they could reduce the capital outlay by $10,000, thus saving $17,000 and balancing the budget.
Councilman Justin Atkinson, expressing frustration over the haggling on the proposed new city employee, said, “It seems like anything that can impede what we want is coming up now.”
Jeff McDonald, sitting in the audience, spoke up and responded to Atkinson. “You make it sound like the roads are not a legitimate concern.” McDonald then made the statutory objection that the council did not have the authority to propose hiring a new city employee, only the mayor did, and the council members would have to go through Bigler. He had voiced similar concerns in the last meeting.
Stallings responded to McDonald by saying in the type of city government that Mt. Pleasant had, certain administrative functions could be delegated to the council. He pointed out that in Mt. Pleasant the council members had been given certain areas of responsibility, and this was agreed to by the mayor. Specifically, Heidi Kelso had been given responsibility over personnel. Stallings pointed out the delegation of authority was specifically authorized by Utah statutes.
Stallings cited the Utah League of Counties and Towns Handbook: “Using council members to administer [a city] has worked well in most cases. Most small communities cannot afford to hire a large staff or city manager.”
After going back and forth on the issue, the parties appeared to leave the issue without agreeing on the eventual outcome of the debate.
Former Mayor Dave Blackham, also in the audience, asked the council how many employees each of the proposed budgets envisioned. Oxman answered budget “A” had five full-time employees and three seasonal, while budget “B” had six full-time employees and three seasonal. Blackham asked if the city or council had looked at comparable Sanpete cities for comparison. Bigler answered yes, they had–the cities had one fewer employee. But Atkinson added that no other Sanpete city had to deal with their own irrigation.
At this point, Oxman suggested the city could wait to hire an extra employee, and see how the budget works out over the year. The remaining employees could also share the responsibility. Stallings cautioned against having another seasonal worker, as they often needed a supervisor to stay on top of them. Stallings emphasized with so many new municipal buildings, maintenance would be a very important issue in the future.
The meeting ended with the council agreeing they had gotten much closer to balancing the budget for next year. However, there was still work to be done to make sure the city balanced new salaries and raises for old employees, make sure the city addressed maintenance for city buildings and still put enough money aside to deal with the road problems.