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Budget Focus At Council Meeting
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The city’s ominous budget situation continued to be the focal point of the Tuesday night, June 5, Oakdale City Council meeting.

With only three of the now four-person council present, and the meeting having to be moved to Tuesday night to get a quorum, Interim City Manager Greg Wellman offered a 297-page draft budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Wellman stated that next year’s budget will start a changeover period marked with significant adjustments in the management leadership and by organizational transitions.

He informed the council that the budget document was reflective of that change and represented a significant departure from past budget plans.

“By law we have to pass a balanced budget,” Wellman told the audience. “Staff has been given direction accordingly.”

Members of the public queried some of the items in the proposed budget regarding salaries, shifting of funding sources, and new items in the financial plan.

Resident and Tourism Committee Member Virginia Camacho suggested to city officials that they should take a serious look at some of the salaries paid to staff, pointing out City Clerk Nancy Lilly.

“Why do we pay our city clerk $85,000 a year?” Camacho asked. “What is it the city clerk actually does for that high of a salary?”

Oakdale’s city clerk is an elected position and responsible for maintaining and recording the official city records mandated by law.

The assignment also provides support and information to the city council, public, and staff, and prepares agendas and records the proceedings of the council.

A check of similar sized cities in the area for salaries paid to the city clerk post shows that Lilly’s $84,092 annual salary is in line with the $77,000 salary paid in Patterson, $85,600 in Escalon, and far less than the $105,000 pay for the Director of Administrative Services/City Clerk position in Riverbank.

Camacho also asked about certain supply purchases and suggested the city bid for benefit plans.

With the elimination of redevelopment funds, certain department heads had their salary funding shifted to different budgets to accommodate the change, which was explained to the audience.

Wellman also introduced other suggested changes for capital projects, vehicle replacements, and technology upgrades he added to the budget.

“Internal service funds are new to the budget,” Wellman reported. “Oakdale had never budgeted adequate funds for these areas.”

He pointed out that the majority of vehicle replacements went toward public safety vehicles.

Resident Ramona Howard suggested that the budget should have been made easier to understand by members of the public.

Mike Eggener pointed out that, though budgetary items were listed on the budget, the reason for the certain payments was not provided.

In a related item to the budget, the council discussed Mayor Pat Paul’s proposal for establishing an audit and finance committee.

Wellman informed the group that in his experience a 3-member finance committee chaired by the city treasurer with open meetings would benefit the city.

He said the staff would be able to vet proposals to the committee and by the time they got to the council they would have been briefed on the issue.

“It saves time, involves the community and the council, and on controversial issues it will cut (down the time of) meetings,” said Wellman. “It’s an item we need to explore.”

Paul, Wellman, and City Attorney Tom Hallinan will move forward with the process to start the committee.