East Carbon budget breakdown
East Carbon City's budget is often a subject of controversy. However with recent revisions and cuts, many questions have arisen as to how and where certain segments of city funding are being spent.
Reviewing the city's budget reveals several instances where office supplies and expenses appear to have been used as a miscellaneous fund. Everything from medical/ hospital bills ($634.33) to construction expenses ($11,000) and various other expenses totaling $17,503.77 are listed under office supplies and expenses in the city streets department from July to December 2009.
Mayor Orlando LaFontaine indicated that the city reviews the budget quarterly during the year and makes revisions based on needs and expenditures that arise.
"What happens is this; the way things get recorded, they might get placed in the wrong spot, like office supplies in the streets department, streets doesn't use office supplies, it's supposed to be someplace else. We see things like this that need to be opened up and we make it accurate," said the mayor.
Another area of the budget involving office supplies and expenses is the general administrative fund, which covers city hall and a few other city facilities including the new museum. This fund has $25,000 budgeted. As with the streets department, many items are listed that appear to be just miscellaneous expenses. A few include a bill from Watchdog! Security Systems for $4,893 that, according to City Recorder Liz Marquez, was used to pay for a panic button which was installed where money is accepted.
"The panic button is in the office where we take and receive money; it goes straight to dispatch and the police if something happens," said LaFontaine. Watchdog! is a security company that the city has contracted with to install systems at many of the city's facilities. The company also appears within the parks budget under equipment - supplies and maintenance for $5,762.
However, for the most part, many of the listed expenses are vague, with no description, making the budget as printed difficult to review without copies of individual expense invoices. Under similar listings, Price City budgets around $28,000 for the entire city's office supplies; however East Carbon's listings are for both office supplies and expenses. Helper city also budgets less with around $17,000 for its entire city's office needs.
In all, East Carbon receives around $540,000 in tax revenues, but has an operating budget of $1,410,447. The majority of the difference between the city's tax revenues and its expenditures are made up by a combination of grants and allotments ($753,467), fees ($102,580) and miscellaneous revenues ($108,700), according to the budget. From July 2009 until December, areas which were overspent included: office supplies and expenses for the streets department -$8,395.15, Community Daze -$7,911.52, equipment for parks and recreation -$10,774.30 along with a few other areas. It should be noted that overspending is common within city budgets, but varies depending on the city.
As the mayor indicated the city frequently reopens its finances for review. The most recent city budget review and modification took place in December 2009. During the session, the city council reopened the budget due to an overstated general fund. The over statement, which was the result of a Community Impact Board (CIB) fund being misplaced, required several cuts across departments. By the time final approval came Dec. 22, around $360,000 had been cut out with only the police and fire departments being untouched. At the time, Mayor LaFontaine was not present and, as such, he has indicated that he would have handled the situation differently, as he does not agree with many of the changes.
One of the changes the mayor disagrees with is capital outlays. Capital outlays are parts of the budget that are used to buy equipment should something need repairs or replacement. With the revisions, about $69,000 was taken out of capital outlays for the parks department. The mayor indicated he disagrees with this cut along with others and that he intends to reopen the budget to make significant changes later this year.
"You wait and see. I'm going to make a lot of changes; some of those (Dec. 22) changes are not going to uphold. The budget's got to make sense," said the mayor.
According to the current budget, the top three biggest cuts totaled $247,000, and came from capital outlays, class c roads and buildings/grounds. Some of the biggest cuts came from the capital outlay budget, and according to the mayor, he disagrees with this because these funds are often moved around to balance department's budgets as they need it.
Currently the city is in the middle of an audit being done by Smuin, Rich and Marsing (SRM).
The audit, which looks into standard accounting practices, will typically make recommendations as to how the city might better handle its budget.
"The city's is doing good as far as money goes. I've got some projects in the works but the main thing is we need to keep moving forward," concluded the mayor.
The budget in its entirety can be obtained at the East Carbon City hall.