Mayor: Streets Will Suffer Without Budget

Brentwood Mayor Chris Thornton presides over the Board of Aldermen meeting Jan. 19 at City Hall. (All photos by Steve Bowman)
Brentwood Mayor Chris Thornton presides over the Board of Aldermen meeting Jan. 19 at City Hall. (All photos by Steve Bowman)

Board to hold budget workshop on Jan. 25

 
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Email: bowmansj@sbcglobal.net

Brentwood Mayor Chris Thornton sent a memo to the Board of Aldermen on Jan. 18 urging it to approve a budget for 2016 “as soon as possible.” He lists several problems that will develop if the budget is not passed, including a delay on street improvements.

On Dec. 21 the board rejected the proposed 2016 budget in a 4-3 vote, citing concerns about how employee compensation will be determined. The “no” votes were cast by Andy Leahy, Steve Lochmoeller, Cindy Manestar and Maureen Saunders. Those in support were David Plufka, Keith Slusser and Patrick Toohey. Thomas Kramer was absent.

At its Jan. 19 meeting the board approved Saunders’s motion to hold a budget workshop at 7 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Brentwood Recreation Center. The meeting will be open to the public.

About 50 people attend the Board of Aldermen meeting Jan. 19.
About 50 people attend the Board of Aldermen meeting Jan. 19.

City still under 2015 budget

In his Jan. 18 memo, entitled State of the City and the 2016 Budget, Thornton said the city is still under the 2015 budget “for day-to-day operations. … Our regular expenses are being paid, our employees have not been adversely impacted and we have generally been able to keep providing essential services to our residents.”

However, he cautioned that if the 2016 budget is not passed soon, four problems will develop: street repair projects will be delayed significantly; the city’s comprehensive plan will not be reviewed and revised; the CRM system, for managing the delivery of services to residents, will not be implemented; and police officers will not receive training needed for the department to achieve certification by CALEA, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

Budget disagreement

Most of the concern with the proposed budget was voiced by Leahy and Saunders at the Dec. 21 meeting. They said there was confusion about how pay increases are determined and they questioned the amounts allocated for employee salaries as well as staff responsibility in placing employees on the pay scale based on the criteria set

Leahy motioned to amend the budget to roll longevity into the base pay of employees who have earned it, to then use that amount to determine their placement on the step plan, and to freeze all other pay increases for employees. The motion failed 6-1.

Alderman Andy Leahy on Jan. 19.
Alderman Andy Leahy on Jan. 19.

Thornton said the board should not try to micromanage employee pay.

“There was budgeted for next year $362,000 for pay increases, that’s what’s before this board,” he said. “The [city] staff is going to put people into the matrix based on their criteria for where those people belong. And for this board to delve into the specifics of that, it’s seriously ludicrous.”

Saunders responded, “I do think this is our job. We said we were going to grasp and get a handle on compensation, and that we were going to pull it to the 75th percentile. … Typically when you’re given a number of $362,000, there’s support at how the number was arrived at.”

Maureen Saunders at Jan. 19 board meeting.
Maureen Saunders at Jan. 20 board meeting.

Thornton said it’s the city administrator’s job, not the board’s, to administer the budget.

Alderman Plufka agreed with Thornton, saying, the board shouldn’t concern itself with “minutia.” He added, “At the front end, to mandate to them [city staff] in this kind of detail … is just wrongheaded.”

Alderman David Plufka on Jan. 19.
Alderman David Plufka on Jan. 19.

But Leahy responded, “I do believe it is very much the responsibility of the [board and mayor] to literally understand what the city is doing and how we’re spending money, and we should get into the enth degree. Because if we don’t do it, then you might as well have all 8,000 residents come up here and do it, because we’re not doing our job.”

Supporting the proposed budget, Toohey said, “When we have our audit done our auditors will do payroll testing and they will ensure that all raises are tied to the step plan. I think we have a pretty good process in place to make sure the step plan we approve will move forward.”

Alderman Patrick Toohey at a May Board of Aldermen meeting.
Alderman Patrick Toohey at a May Board of Aldermen meeting.

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