The restless tension in the audience was matched by the dour expressions of Oakdale City Council members as the Monday night, June 21 council meeting promised more bad news as negotiations with labor groups continue without resolution, yet council members were pressured to adopt an operating budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
In response, City Manager Steve Hallam presented two budgets for the council to adopt simultaneously.
When Mayor Farrell Jackson remarked on the unusual nature of such an action, Hallam explained, “Come July 1 we can commence implementation of either one pending the outcome with the labor negotiations.”
But whether the city ultimately goes with Budget A or Budget B, the writing on the wall is grim for police and fire, most notably for police who, as previously reported, will lose at least four uniformed officers.
It will also drop the budget reserve to 16.9 percent, another undesirable outcome as a result of severely diminished revenue flowing into the city.
“We have to live within our means,” Hallam said.
In spite of a packed house, only two people spoke in opposition of the proposed budget — the vice president of the Police Officer Association and a citizen — but the grumblings from the crowd pointed to the level of discontent of those attending the meeting.
Councilmember Michael Brennan, the one dissenting vote against adopting the dual budgets as they were presented, said, “I don’t favor any of the budgets. I don’t want to pull out of the reserves. You have to bite the bullet harder than it is.”
Mayor Jackson admitted tough times were here and more difficult choices were likely on the horizon as economists are predicting another year of recession is coming. He wasn’t keen on pulling from the reserve either but said he didn’t see much of a choice.
“The General Fund Reserves are supposed to be used for emergencies and I don’t see any other way. I’m hopeful for successful negotiations,” Jackson added.
Councilwoman Toni Hanson admonished the crowd, saying, “Everybody is tightening their belt. I’m disappointed in the labor groups.”
Hanson added that currently she and her husband are unemployed and that in today’s economy having a job at all is something to appreciate.
“I would be very grateful to have a job right now,” Hanson said.
Mayor Pro Tem Katherine Morgan was concerned about the dwindling reserves, saying, “$1.3 million is not a lot for emergencies. Until times get better we have to make concessions. Unless a huge benefactor drops a pot of money into our General Fund we have to make some hard choices.”
Councilmember Tom Dunlop agreed, saying, “The truck is running out of gas.”
Labor negotiations are scheduled to continue June 30.