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East Carbon comes down to the wire on budget decision

Sun Advocate reporter

With the time ticking away for the city to submit its budget to the state auditor's office, the East Carbon City Council will be working up to the final minutes.

The council held a public hearing concerning the budget during their meeting on Tuesday evening and questions both from council members and the public brought about discussion with the city's projected figures. Currently the city is projecting to have a budget of $950,900 for the fiscal year 2011-12, which is higher than last year's city budget. In the previous fiscal year for 2010-11 the city had a budget of $888,725.

The meeting was an opportunity for residents who attended the meeting to express their thoughts on the budget. Robert Warren, an East Carbon resident, said he was concerned about how the city has operated with its budget, citing a list of 12 items included in an audit from earlier this year. The audit, performed by Smuin, Rich and Marsing Certified Public Accountants, included items such as the city's failure to record receivables, failure to record transactions accurately, failure to advertise budget hearings and city employees using public funds to purchase products and services for their personal use.

Warren said the 12 items listed in the audit made the city council look "incompetent" and said he would not support the city's upcoming budget without getting enough time to look over it. He also noted the $750,000 deficit in the city's general fund as a problem that the city needs to work on fixing soon.

"I am concerned about this budget and I think the $750,000 deficit is ludicrous," he said.

Council members were voted into office to represent the city and its residents, not to take away from them, Warren said.

"You were voted in to represent us, not to rob us," he explained. While he shared his concerns with the council, Warren did say he felt the city can fix the budget and get back into positive figures.

One area of question in the budget among residents was the tippage fees from ECDC. Councilwoman Cheryl McFarland said the city should expect to receive about $300,000 from ECDC for the 2011-12 year. While that figure is lower than what the city has received in the past from ECDC, those funds should still be able to cover the city's bond payments for previous sewer work, McFarland said.

Residents who attended the public hearing helped bring up questions about the budget and brought about conversations that were helpful in explaining how the funds are distributed to the different departments in the city, McFarland said.

"It makes it nice to be able to talk about things," McFarland said of questions about the city budget.

While the council had one of their first opportunities to look over the potential budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Councilman Andy Urbanik said he thought the council needed more time to review the budget and look for any changes that need to be made.

"We need adequate time to be able to go over the budget," Urbanik explained. He said that Mayor Orlando LaFontaine failed to present the city council with a budget at the end of May and that the city will be coming down to the wire in turning in their budget to the city. LaFontaine and City Attorney Jeremy Humes were not present at the meeting as they were attending other meetings in Salt Lake City.

The council said they would look into the possibility of holding another meeting next week to pass the final version of the budget and send it off to the state auditor's office for final approval.

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