September 7, 2016 Council Rundown

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All council members were present for this specially called meeting. The agenda items for the meeting were to hold a work session on the budgets for the library and museum.

Council member Steve Ott questioned why this meeting was called. Mayor Ronald A. White explained that there was a citizen who raised questions about the library budget at a previous meeting and he wanted to make sure those questions had been answered. He also referenced what he called a “breakdown in communication”, saying he’d been informed that the museum didn’t receive all of the funds in their budget they had requested.

Mayor White asked Finance Director Phil Bray if the citizen’s questions about the library budget had been answered. Bray explained that the citizen was invited to come to City Hall where staff would go over the budget with them, but said that they did not come in. He stated that at a previous meeting when these questions were raised, staff attempted to answer them. The citizen was present, and said they’ve been unable to meet with staff, but would like to take them up on the offer and do so soon. They were told that the invitation is open.

City Manager Jim Ryan explained that the decrease in the library budget the citizen was questioning was from two years ago, when higher salary employees left the library and those that replaced them didn’t have the same qualifications, meaning that the new employees’ salaries were lower. Ryan again stated that the current library budget had not been cut or lowered, saying it was the only department to not be cut.

Moving to the museum budget, Deputy City Manager Jeff James addressed the council. He stated that it was simply a miscommunication, explaining that the budget documentation submitted by the museum made it appear as if they were only asking for $24,000 in funding. Lower on the document, there were an additional $6000 in expenses listed, but James stated that since the additional money wasn’t expressly being asked for it was thought that the museum was going to pay for those expenses using their donations. James said that moving forward they will use a more clear form of budget documents and will work to communicate more clearly with the museum and their board.

A discussion was held regarding ownership of some of the exhibits at the museum. While discussing using funds to repair exhibits, both Ryan and James touched upon the fact that this could mean spending tax dollars on something the City doesn’t own since there are exhibits at the museum that are on loan and not actually owned by the museum. “I don’t know if we really want to take taxpayer dollars and benefit a private citizen,” James said, saying this wasn’t advisable.

Ott pointed out that the museum board isn’t appointed by council, saying that the museum is its own entity that uses City property and is funded by the City. He suggested that this might need to be addressed, offering options such as making the museum an actual part of the city like the library and seniors center, or to stop funding the museum since it’s not officially a city department. Ott stated that it’s an auditing issue having the museum set up the way it is now.

Returning the discussion to the museum budget, council member Clements and Mann voiced support of funding the additional $6000 that is being asked for. Ott stated he was against it until he had more documentation about why they needed the additional funds.

One of the museum’s board members addressed the council in an attempt to answer some questions regarding the extra funds they requested. Ongoing security costs, damage to the museum building, and utilities were some of the things the extra money would go towards. They also said they believed making the museum a City department was an excellent idea.

Since this was a work session, no actions were taken by the Council.