The Saratoga Sun -

Council passes budget amendment on second reading

Ordinance No. 856 passes with vote of 3-1, Nelson again pushes for inclusion of transfer of excess revenues

 


During the June 11 special meeting of the Saratoga Town Council, the governing body voted 3-1 to pass Ordinance No. 856, a budget amendment for Fiscal Year 2019/2020, on second reading with Councilmember Jon Nelson casting the lone dissenting vote.

The nay vote from Nelson comes following repeated attempts to include the transfer of excess revenues over expenditures in the enterprise funds in the amendment. As was reported previously (see “No second for that motion” on page 9 of the June 10 Saratoga Sun), Ordinance No. 856 failed to receive a second for second reading on June 2.

At that meeting, Nelson had proposed the following items and amounts be included on the budget amendment:

• $30,000 to the airport fund from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act

• $13,485 in excess of revenues over expenditures for the airport fund

• $185,862 in excess of revenues over expenditures for the water fund

• $115,286 in excess of revenues over expenditures for the sewer fund

• $30,510 in excess of revenues over expenditures for the weed and pest fund.

As the budget amendment came up for second reading a second time, Nelson reiterated his intention in having those additions to the document.

“I believe it is important that we have this budget amended and that we include the transfer of excess revenues over expenditures from the enterprise funds and show that they are going to go into reserve accounts,” said Nelson. “I’ve asked for that, this is now the third time, and I’d like to ask each one of you why you don’t think that’s appropriate to do.”

Both Councilmember Bob Keel and Councilmember Judy Welton stated they did not feel it was appropriate for the town council to make the adjustments requested by Nelson until James Childress had finished correcting the Town of Saratoga’s financial ledgers.

“We’ve hired an accountant to help us set our books straight. The job isn’t done and, until the accountant has made the books accurate, I don’t think it’s appropriate to make those transfers,” said Keel.

“We’ve hired him and asked him to do this, we just haven’t seen it through yet and I know that what he finds in (fiscal year) 18/19 will affect us going forward,” Welton agreed. “So, I think we’re way ahead of ourselves.”

Nelson argued that by the governing body not making the transfers he was requesting, the council was violating, not only their own town code, but also federal and state law. In the case of the weed and pest funds, Nelson referred to Saratoga Municipal Code 8.20.060 which reads, “The service charge provided in this chapter is not a revenue measure but all such funds that shall be received for pest control shall be utilized and are appropriated and earmarked for the exclusive purpose of pest control.”

In terms of the water and sewer fund, Nelson referenced a letter sent from the Board of Carbon County Commissioners (BOCCC) expressing their concern over the status of funds for the Saratoga-Carbon County Impact Joint Powers Board (SCCIJPB) that were managed by the Town of Saratoga. In that letter, it references Wyoming State Statute 15-7-507.

That statute reads, “all revenues derived from the operation of the sewerage system shall be set aside as collected and deposited in a special fund to be used only for; paying the cost of operating and maintaining the system, providing an adequate depreciation fund and paying the principal and interest on the bonds issued under this article.”

“The total excess revenues over expenditures for the airport fund, at least as of the current report, is $33,758. I believe that needs to go into the airport reserve fund and the airport WYO-STAR fund so that it is maintained as airport assets,” Nelson said. “The reason for that is, primarily, because the airport improvement act requires that any revenues generated at and by the airport must remain there. The same goes for the water fund, the same goes for the sewer fund.”

Tom Thompson, legal counsel for the Town of Saratoga, reiterated his stance that not all of the revenue from water and sewer fees belonged to the SCCIJPB. As was reported previously (see “BOCCC discusses intent of JPB agreement” on page 1 of the April 29 Saratoga Sun), Thompson had argued that the joint powers board was only entitled to those fees from the extended portions of the water and sewer system.

While Nelson expressed his concern over the Saratoga Town Council deferring to Childress, adding that it was the governing body that had the responsibility of the town’s accounts, the other members of the council expressed their desire to obtain more information.

“I think it’s way better for the town council to get all of the information, that we digest that information and make a decision. Even if that’s after the third reading and then, at that point, we can go and say, ‘Look, this money was supposed to go to weed and pest reserves. Let’s put it there. This money was supposed to go to sewer reserves. Let’s put it there,’” Keel said. “So, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with waiting for our accountant to get us all the information, even if it means this ordinance gets passed as is.”

Ultimately, Nelson’s suggestions were not included in the budget amendment and Ordinance No. 856 included only $15,000 for the town hall fund, $20,000 for the fire department capital equipment fund and $10,000 for the 911 fund. The ordinance passed on second reading with a vote of 3-1.

The next meeting of the Saratoga Town Council will be at 6 p.m. on June 23 at Saratoga Town Hall.

 

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