City Council Extra

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Great theater yesterday afternoon at council chambers where they were supposed to be discussing the tax rate. As I’m sure you heard by now, it ended up with City Manager Steve Herbert being subjected to a closed-door no-confidence vote.

Apparently, he continues to maintain enough confidence among the seven to retain his job.

Anyway, the bulk of the discussion was about the tax rate. I wrote a straight story for the print edition, but because of time and space limitations, I wasn’t able to include all the juicy comments that were coming from all corners.

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Fortunately, I took my laptop to the meeting so I could type the stuff down. My handwriting has a shelf life of about 30 minutes. Can’t read it after that.

So here’s some of what we didn’t include in the today’s paper:

Herbert to council outlining 10-cent reduction: I think we heard loud and clear from you that there were certain things you didn’t want. No cuts in school budget or public safety. Those two things have been specifically untouched.”

Mr. Milteer was in particularly good form at the meeting. This was him following Finance Director Ledford’s presentation on the 10-cent reduction that included eliminating a prosecuting attorney and an increase in the meals and lodging taxes.

“A couple discrepancies I picked up as your presentation was presented. You talked about eliminating the attorney for the prosecution of criminals. The number of offenses has risen and we’re talking about taking away that position? To me that is unacceptable. If the workload in a department has increased we need to give that department the opportunity to do its job.”

“We’re talking about reducing the tax rate by a penny and putting a penny on the meal rate. What kind of message are we sending? To me it sends a message that we are playing games? I think we need to stop playing games, OK?”

Councilman Brown was with Milteer on the prosecuting attorney thing.

“You are putting too much workload on them. If you don’t have the ability to prosecute them they will be back on the streets the next day.”

Councilman Bennett, after again stating he didn’t want any cuts to education and economic development, chimed in on the public safety thing, too”

“I have a lot of concern when we take public safety and put it in with other departments who are not putting their lives on the line every day. If you cut that I will vote against that budget.”

Bennett continued and talked about being realistic:

“I want to try to get to the 15 cents we have asked for. A lot of people have called me and asked for it. I have to be able to compromise like everyone else. I have something in mind I’d like to have, but I may not always be able to get what I ask for. But to jeopardize our public safety in our city … I for one will not vote to reduce anything in public safety.”

Councilwoman Johnson urged that the budget be sent back to department heads and let them pick their own cuts.

“We could sit here all day long. The things that I’d like to see looked at, and I’d really prefer that we go back to department heads and let them make their decisions, I think it would be much more palatable to let them do that. Maybe they can do it, maybe they can’t.”

She suggested looking for cuts in professional services, IT and the city’s fleet. “We know gas is going up and we are driving some really noneconomical cars.”

When it came his turn to speak, Mayor Ralph seemed want to get things wrapped up.

“I think it’s time for us to get done and cut through the chase. I’m ready to move forward with the budget and cut through allthis chase.”

Councilman Barlow was the only 0ne of the seven willing to broach the unmentionable: Cutting the school budget (good for him):

“If we have to cut I think schools are going to have to do their part in readjusting the budget. They do manage their own money and I do feel that if we cut the budget severely, we need to cut there.”

There’s more I’ll post later this morning. This is all I could get done Wednesday night.