Bishop City Council met Monday night at City Council Chambers on West Line to approve the Fiscal Year 2012-2013 budget, discussed at a public hearing last week. What began as a simple issue of “Yay” or “Nay” took a turn into more complicated territory after Mayor Pro-Tem David Stottlemyre voiced his reservations.
“At the hearings, I had some concerns about the budget as presented,” Stottlemyre said. “This time around I believe, with the economic climate the way I read it, I’d rather not see us approve this budget just yet.”
He explained that he had done his own calculations to determine the FY 12-13 General Fund deficit, and projected an additional potential deficit of $318,000 to add to the existing projected shortfall.
By his calculations, the General Fund deficit of $516,930 as stated in the preliminary budget would be closer to $835,500. Therefore, Stottlemyre said, “I would rather err on the side of playing it safe.” He elaborated that he would prefer to wait until city accountants’ audited financial statements came back to the Council in several weeks, and perhaps even wait to complete labor negotiations before agreeing to a FY 12-13 budget.
“What if we adopted the budget with a stipulation that we’d come back and review it with the audited financials and labor negotiations?” asked Councilmember Jeff Griffiths. Mayor Pro-Tem Stottlemyre replied that he was worried if the Council adopted the budget as is, “some people tend to rely on those numbers” and would be disappointed if further cuts were made.
Councilmember Jim Ellis sided with Mayor Pro-Tem Stottlemyre on the issue. “We’re in such a rush to adopt [the budget] and all the pieces aren’t quite there yet,” he said. “There’s an audit, which is going to hurt, and then there is that big cloud hanging over us as far as what’s going to happen with negotiations and what that’s going to do to us 2 years down the road.”
However, City Attorney Peter Tracy pointed out that the preliminary budget “is not actually a binding document, in many respects,” and that changes based on future financial data were to be expected. “I think it’s just [an issue of] semantics,” added Councilmember Griffiths. “I really don’t have a preference on how we do this because I think it’s the same either way. My only worry is losing all the hard work we put in during the budget hearings.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Stottlemyre’s motion to continue consideration of the preliminary budget to Dec. 12 was not approved by the Council. Said Councilmember Griffiths, “I’m almost positive you won’t have the answers to your questions by then.” Instead, the Council approved the preliminary FY 12-13 budget and directed staff to bring the budget back to be re-agendized for further discussion at the Dec. 12 meeting.
“I hope I’m wrong, I really do,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Stottlemyre after the meeting. “I just felt we had more time to be cautious in our approach to this. We don’t have to do business as usual. I wanted to let the public know the city of Bishop is being more careful.”
The Council’s next scheduled regular meeting will be Nov. 14.