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The new city council did not waste any time diving into the city’s financial situation.
Just minutes after being sworn in, Councilmen Roger Kepple and Mike Wright asked that the agenda of the meeting be amended to include discussions about freezing hiring, salaries and vehicle and equipment purchases.
Mayor Lance Green advised the councilmen against amending the budget and asked that it be noted in the minutes that he was discouraging the amendment. Green said the Missouri Municipal League and City Attorney Brian Hall both discourage amending the budget.
“It’s really stressed not to do that because the public has not had time to see the agenda and voice their concerns,” Green said.
Green asked if the situation was an emergency.
“It might be,” Kepple said. “It deals with finance and I would consider that an emergency for this council. It’s going to be on our shift if anything happens.”
Councilman Jason Berning agreed with Green and voted no to amend the budget. Berning was the only councilman to do so.
“I’m happy to discuss anything, but I would echo (Green’s) sentiments,” Berning said.
Berning, who was also reappointed chairman of the Finance Committee, said the city would have a budget workshop next Tuesday, April 21, at 6:30.
Green told the council that salaries cannot be addressed until the next budget and that any hiring that would take place would only be to replace individuals who have left for other jobs.
Kepple said regardless of what’s in the budget, the financial situation needs to be looked at.
“Anybody that is in business can realize that you can destroy your business very quickly by letting payroll get out of hand,” Kepple said. “Sometimes you have to tighten the belt and operate with fewer people or operate smarter.”
Green said the city has cut back on labor the last two years and that the city cannot be looked at like a conventional business.
“This is not a business where you’re in business to make a profit. We are in business to provide a service,” Green said. “And I think it’s a balancing act the staff has worked really hard on. We have to keep service in order to maintain the city at the level we want to. I don’t want to go backwards.”
“I also think the council should have an opportunity of looking at that budget before making any determinations,” Kepple responded. “I’m not talking about cutting off everybody. I’m talking about letting the council be in charge of who’s hired or not.”
Green reiterated that the people are in the budget and that City Administrator Rick Childers would inform them when he makes hiring decisions.
“If it’s in the budget, he has the authority to hire them,” Green said. “If you ask (Childers) I’m sure he’ll keep you very aware of what’s going on.”
A number of things were requested for the next regular council meeting including adding the city’s monthly expenditures to the council packet.