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‘Bucks’ stop now

August 21, 2012

Wapakoneta 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier

The “buck” stops here — at least the bucks should, a councilor says, until the Wapakoneta City Council Finance Committee learns the reasons for a number of supplemental appropriations to transfer  funds.

Wapakoneta 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier, who often objects to suspending the rules of three readings on legislation because it does not allow for public input, gained a supporter during Monday’s council meeting after making an argument against suspending the rule on an ordinance which permitted the transfer of funds — much of it from contingency lines to cover a number of other expenses.

“I would like to see the Finance Committee have a chance to review all supplemental appropriation requests because we are responsible for that budget, we set that budget, we worked hard on that budget and it is a tight budget this year,” Neumeier said after Monday’s council meeting. “I want to make sure when we do supplemental appropriations, especially as an emergency, that there is an emergency.

“I think we, as a council, have become complacent and just automatically pass some things when they come before us without reviewing it,” he said. “I am glad to see Tom agree and I think he understands what I am talking about because he sits on the Finance Committee with me.”

Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr., who serves on the Finance Committee with Neumeier and 3rd Ward Councilor Bonnie Wurst, voted with Neumeier against suspending the rule of three readings which requires six votes of council to waive the requirement. Without the necessary six votes, the ordinance received its first reading.

“I feel councilman Neumeier made many salient points and there were some issues that should be discussed in a Finance Committee meeting before we make these transfers,” Finkelmeier said after Monday’s meeting. “Our budget showed a projected carryover of $1,869 for this fiscal year, so it is not untoward for Jim to be very cautious on any transfers made during this year.”

Neumeier told the Wapakoneta Daily News after the meeting the city’s cash carryover in each account and for the city budget in general have decreased each year for the past several years, putting a strain on the budget and requiring more vigilance by councilors. Reviewing the proposed ordinance, he noted the depletion of one entire cash carryover line item with this supplemental appropriation as well as the fact it is only August raised his concern to a higher level.

He noted he spent more than three hours reviewing the budget to determine what may have caused the shortfall, and he said he would like answers to questions he has and that  he believes his constituents would have.

During the meeting, Neumeier pleaded with his fellow councilors to vote with him not to suspend the rule of three readings because he would like to get an explanation from city Auditor Gail Walter on the reasons for the transfers.

He said there is little to no time between receiving the councilor’s packet of information for the council meeting on Friday night and Monday’s actual meeting.

Walter did provide councilors with a memo providing a paragraph-long explanation for the transfers.

He also expressed his concerns with the fact many of the funds existed with minimal contingency funds or cash carryover and Finance Committee members would like to maintain the cash carryover for actual emergencies.

The 1st Ward councilor also questioned if the transfers were needed for money already spent or purchase orders already approved.

“I am not prepared to pass this by suspending the rule of three readings and as an emergency without getting some answers,” Neumeier said during the meeting. “I may be making a mountain out of a molehill, but the city’s budget is very tight and we are the stewards of the citizens’ tax money.

“I don’t like getting it on Friday night and not being able to get a hold of anybody before the meeting,” he said. “I would hope someone else would vote against suspending the rules, which is what I intend to do, so we could allow for the Finance Committee to review this.”

During the scheduling of committee meetings, Council President Steve Henderson requested Wurst schedule a Finance Committee meeting, which she slated for 4 p.m. Thursday in the council conference room.

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