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With a little less than two months on the job, the new Richmond City Council wants to change the culture at City Hall.
On Friday, Councilman Roger Kepple expressed that desire to City Administrator Rick Childers.
During a discussion about grants and other ordinances at the Ordinance Committee meeting Friday, the talk turned towards how money is spent.
“The department heads are driving the budget. We’re trying to move the control of the city operations from the department heads to the city council,” Kepple said. “If we can get control of departments then we can get control of the spending and then we wouldn’t be blindsided.”
Childers strongly disagreed with Kepple’s comment and said he’s never been blindsided. Childers said he had three years of the city’s financials reviewed by an attorney and a friend familiar with city administration. Childers said he questioned the council at that time about the city’s financial situation.
“I haven’t been blindsided since the day I walked in here,” Childers said. “There were horrific concerns about where the city was and how it got there. I asked them, ‘How did you let yourselves get to this point?’ Their response was, ‘We’ve just had bad information.’ You will not have bad information. You may not like the information you get, but it will be accurate information.”
Another concern was the process by which the budget is formulated. Some councilmen said they would like to eliminate the ‘wish list’ stage of the process. Childers said there is a reason for a multi-step process. He said the wish list is to track needs. He said department heads focus on expenditures while he and Finance Director Melanie Allwood focus on revenue. Childers said department heads drive the budget because they deal with the real world realities daily.
“They’re the ones doing the work. They have the best understanding of what’s needed in order to accomplish the job,” Childers said.
“We don’t do quick one-word processes. It doesn’t work that way,” Childers said in a frustrated tone. “It’s a planning process not a reactionary process.”
The committee also got into a discussion about whom Police Chief Terri McWilliams should report to. The committee also discussed changing the merit system for police officers.