Not quite zoned in
Saratoga Town Council discusses budget amendment to transfer funds from police department, ordinance passes first reading 3-2
September 25, 2019
The Saratoga Town Council was presented with a budget amendment on Sept. 20 for the purpose of transferring funds from the Saratoga Police Department to Planning. As was reported previously (see “Budgeting for zoning” on page 3 of the Sept. 11 Saratoga Sun), the town council had unanimously approved the transfer of $11,748.95 to pay for a full-time zoning officer.
When they were first presented with Ordinance No. 856, Saratoga Police Chief Ken Lehr pointed out that the document stated that funds would be transferred from the equipment replacement fund. The council had approved the transfer to be from the vehicle replacement fund. Saratoga Town Clerk Suzie Cox stated that she would fix the error for second reading.
Councilmember Bob Keel also pointed out an error, stating that he didn’t believe that the council had agreed on a round number. The ordinance read that $11,000 would be transferred. Keel found the exact dollar amount and Cox stated she would make the correction.
Following the first reading and a motion to approve the ordinance on first reading, Mayor Zeiger began the discussion by expressing his concern in taking money from the police department.
“I guess my concern is, knowing the shape that some of our police department vehicles are in, do we have plans in place in order to start replacing our police department vehicles?” asked Zeiger.
It was during the Sept. 3 town council meeting that the discussion took place about how the Saratoga Police Department would be more than replenished by impact funds. Zeiger was not in attendance and Councilmember Steve Wilcoxson served as Mayor Pro-Tem. Keel informed Zeiger that the discussion had taken place about the police department receiving a significant amount of impact funds.
“I know that it was discussed that the impact funds, they aren’t coming in quite yet, but they would be in to cover this. I’m not too sure if this is the best route to go,” said Wilcoxson.
Zeiger asked Cox if the town council could hire a full-time zoning officer, but hold off on passing a budget amendment. Cox replied that the Town of Saratoga could go to the first of the year before passing a budget amendment.
“If you recall, I objected to that because I didn’t want to hire somebody and, essentially, try to give them a secure position prior to appropriating those funds,” said Councilmember Jon Nelson.
Nelson added that, throughout the conversation that has taken place over the last several months, he had been consistent in his position that funds be appropriated before the town hired a full-time zoning officer. Keel followed Nelson by providing some history for the public as to the issue the town council had been running into with acquiring a permanent zoning officer.
“The reason why we passed a budget for a part-time employee was we felt like we could hire somebody part-time. After I don’t know how many months of advertising, we didn’t have any interest in the part-time position. This problem went before the planning commission and the planning commission made a recommendation to the council that we make it a full-time position in order to have better recruiting,” said Keel.” When those discussions started happening, we got two applications in within a month or so. In the process, we did interview those two applicants. Since, one of those applicants has turned down the position because they could not wait any longer to hear back on a budget amendment.”
As discussion continued, Nelson calculated the amount that the police department would be receiving from impact funding. According to Nelson, of the $1.5 million in impact funding that the Town of Saratoga would be receiving from Gateway West, there would be $25,740 for the police department. With the TransWest impact funding, the police department would be receiving approximately $600,000.
“We went through that analysis at the last meeting, if I recall,” said Nelson.
“That’s what I recall and there wasn’t anywhere else that we could see to take it,” added Councilmember Judy Welton.
“So, this council feels comfortable if tomorrow one of our police vehicles totally takes a crap we’re ready to say, ‘Okay, Chief. Order you a vehicle.’ Do we feel comfortable we can do that?” asked Zeiger.
Currently, there is $15,000 allocated to the police department vehicle replacement fund and, at the previous town council meeting, it was pointed out by Lehr that this number has always been budgeted but never spent. The police chief informed the council that it would cost approximately $42,000 for a police department vehicle to be street ready.
“We’d be up a creek anyway,” Welton said.
Following discussion, Zeiger called for a poll of the council. Ordinance No. 856 passed on first reading by a vote of 3-2 with Wilcoxson and Zeiger providing the dissenting votes.
The next meeting of the Saratoga Town Council will be at 6 p.m. on Oct. 1 at Saratoga Town Hall.