What just happened?
Clinton City Council voted 5-2 Monday against adopting the proposed budget for the 2017-2018.
“What does this mean?” asked Council Member Shirley Jenkins, who, along with Danny Cook, voted to adopt the $29.9 million document.
The proposed budget implemented utility rates included in the utility rate study that was presented during a lengthy presentation by Engineer Steve Shurbbert of GDS Associates.
High electric rates in the summer of 2015 led to citizens packing council chambers at least twice. Council created a utility rate committee and hired GDS Associates to conduct a rate study with the 100-page document being presented Monday.
The new rates would decrease electric rates and increase water, sewer and sanitation (garbage) rates in an attempt to make each utility self supporting. The rates presented Monday night would not reduce the overall utility bill for city electric, water and sewer customers.
Mayor Bob McLean was joined by Council Members Ronnie Roth, Gary Kuykendall, Robbie Neal and Jimmy Young voted not to adopt the budget.
The budget did not include any property tax increase or business license fee increase. City employees would receive a small cost-of-living raise and, possibly, two merit salary adjustments during the year.
McLean said council had not seen any actual budget numbers until two weeks ago.
Council has held three lengthy budget workshops – the first was held Feb. 6 -- preparing the document presented Monday night. During the workshops, council heard from city department heads who reviewed the accomplishments of last year before setting goals for this coming fiscal year.
Council has changed since those three budget workshops with Robbie Neal and Ronnie Roth being elected and taking office in March.
This year’s budgeting process was accelerated when City Manager Frank Stovall announced March 6 that he’s leaving May 5 to take a position with a public-private foundation in Virginia.
At that time, council indicated a desire to have the new budget finished and voted on when Stovall leaves so the new city manager or the interim city manager (Public Works Director Dale Satterfield) would not have to deal with crafting a new budget right away.
Satterfield will now be left to answer council’s unasked questions and incorporate apparent concerns into the document guiding the city beginning July 1.
The original timetable called for council to give first reading approval to the budget April 17 and second and final reading (with a public hearing) on May 8, Satterfield’s first day in the big office.
Instead, council decided Monday night to hold another budget workshop two hours prior to council’s May 8 meeting.
After the 5-2 no vote, some council members indicated they wanted more information.
“We have to go back and look at some things,” Mayor McLean.
“I think the two new council members need a good picture,” Council Member Kuykendall said. “And it wouldn’t hurt us (the holdover council members) to do that.”
Stovall had indicated prior to the vote he was willing to present a “detailed” budget presentation if council wanted one. There was no response to the offer and the motion to accept the budget was then made and defeated.
The city manager, visibly upset by the budget vote, told council the budget workshop they requested would need to be held after May 5, when he leaves office.