Patterson mayor looks to ongoing budget reviews

Patterson Mayor Rodney Grogan

Mayor Rodney Grogan and three council members had a budget workshop here Monday afternoon as the mayor and council are beginning to work together and understand how best to produce a budget in a timely manner. 
Council members Larry Mendoza, Joe Russo and Sandra Turner listened as the mayor said he wanted to consult with them as the budget is prepared and keep the council informed as the budget is administered.
As council members looked over this year’s budget and monthly financial reports, Mendoza and Turner raised concerns about some revenues and expenditures being classified as miscellaneous.
City Clerk Pam Washington explained that there are times that unusual expenses are incurred or one-time revenues are received and there is not a place to enter them other than miscellaneous.
Independent auditor Allen Taylor clarified to the mayor and council members that legally and ethically he cannot have a role in forming the budget or in directing how it is administered. He said he has worked with Washington on issues in the past and has offered possible solutions to problems, but he cannot tell the city what course it should take.
Taylor also said state law requires vehicles owned and registered by the city, with the exception of police cars, must have something on them which identifies them as city property.
Taylor and city attorney Russell Cremaldi told the council members that they have the power of the purse strings. They can approve a submitted budget in whole by passing an ordinance or they can wield their power by insisting on line item adjustments. 
Once the budget is approved, it becomes the responsibility of the mayor to implement its use in governing the city and running the departments under his control.
Grogan wanted to have travel expenses for the mayor, department heads, council members and the police chief itemized separately so that with the press of a button, someone can ask for a particular person’s expenses and it can be located in one place.
After several minutes of discussion, Grogan pared down the list of separate line items on travel to him and the chief of police.
Public Works director Steve Bierhorst said a truck is having engine problems that could require work costing thousands of dollars.
Grogan used that as an example of unexpected expenses that often cause a problem in the budget. He said that is why the budget should be examined at least once, if not more, during the year and amended if needed. 
The question of how quickly state law requires a budget to be amended was raised. Cremaldi said he would get Grogan the answer.
Grogan expects to offer an amended budget in January.
Both Cremaldi and Taylor said where the city has run afoul of state law in the past and nonconformity with its own charter has been in the timing of the budget’s delivery and adoption.
Grogan said he expects to have a proposed budget submitted to the council by mid-April as required by the city charter. 
Washington has been responsible for crunching the numbers and putting together the budget in previous years, Grogan said. After Washington made the budget, often basing it mostly on the previous year’s budget, the mayor would then present the budget to the council. This year’s budget will be different, Grogan said.
Grogan promised that this was the first in a series of workshops he intends on having. He said he will continue to involve department heads and council members.

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