Back in September, Farmington’s City Council directed the City Staff to cut an additional $100,000 from its budget and asked that it be done by, “rearranging management.” After months of work, according to both the Farmington Independent and Thisweek, the Farmington City Council believes that the City Administrator is unwilling to work with the council to carry out their direction and as such they have lost their trust.
This lack of trust is two fold:
1. The suggestion that franchise fees, which some consider to be unfair, replace traditional assessments for road repair has caused the council and the public to question where the money went from the fund setup for these repairs and whether the new fees collected via franchise fees would have any access controls on it to avoid a similar depletion in the future.
2. Some members of the council do not appreciate the fact that the City Administrator is not carrying out their explicit instructions.
Regarding the franchise fees option and trust of the council, lame duck councilmember Steve Wilson is quoted in the Thisweek article as saying:
“Residents should be aware that by setting up this fund, we got confirmation from the city attorney that the money can be used for any other purpose. So, setting up the fund is inherently dangerous when there’s no trust the city is going to be accountable for it,” Wilson said.
But now, the fund has been depleted, and franchise fees (additional taxes on utility bills) is the new method staff is promoting to pay for seal coating projects.
According to Thisweek several within the community have argued that there were “millions” in the now depleted fund and this new franchise fee option is being proposed only to create a “slush fund” for future expenditures at the whim of the City Staff and Council.
But even with the worries regarding the franchise fees, the single biggest issue the council has with the City Administrator is that they specifically stated they wanted the staff to “rearrange management” to save $100,000 but when the proposal came before them the reduction in management was not included. Instead the Farmington City Staff had come up with a plan which included reducing staff time on three positions which would have achieved the same goal.
According to this Farmington Independent article this was not acceptable to the council:
Though the $79,500 reduction of staff time and the savings from the police sergeants’ contract would have netted well over $100,000, the solution was not what they were looking for, and they made that well known to Herlofsky.
On one hand, the proposal would get the budget to where council members would like it to be for 2011; on the other, the plan specifically went against council’s wishes.
One councilmember, who later agreed to eliminate a management position, did note that this move would lower City Staff morale but that the wishes and direction of the council were more important to meet.
What do you think of the Farmington City Council’s recent actions regarding both the franchise fees situation and staffing within City Hall? Do you believe the council was right in ignoring the City Staff’s alternative proposal which would have saved a management position because it did not fit their direction? What do you think about the franchise fees? Are you concerned that it would become a slush fund as some residents have worried it will? Do you wonder where the money went from the original fund? Whatever you have to say about Farmington’s internal trouble go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.