Discord arises over budget at Kingston called meeting
by Matt Shinall
Sep 28, 2010 | 1841 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Of the items on the agenda for Monday's special called meeting in Kingston, none were voted on directly -- instead discussion centered heavily on budget matters.

A financial update begins each meeting as the council looks over bank statements. This time, the anticipated daily balance after Monday's transactions are accounted for was shown to be $2,299 in the general fund. As City Clerk Michele Jones and Councilman Louise Howell pointed out, payroll is due today placing the city in a tight situation.

Mayor Dexter Jones continued to provide a positive outlook for city finances insisting that the situation is stable. He emphasized current efforts to check all past transactions for the year to find the fund from which payments were made. The council disagreed with the mayor on the need for such actions since the addition of Capable Financial Solutions as a contracted accounting source earlier this year.

"We are currently combing through old debts that we owe, old debts that we paid," Dexter Jones said. "Making sure they were paid from the correct funds, making sure that all of our employees were paid from the correct fund, and after we did that, I think we'd be able to come back and make any suggestions that we would need to alleviate our situation but again let me reiterate that I think our situation is pretty good."

Citing the advice of Sabrina Cape of Capable Financial Solutions, Councilman Ed Miklas reiterated her warning against the pace of transfers from the water fund and the need to curtail expenses.

"We just don't have that much money to be transferring from the water fund to the general account. We have to cut back on our spending starting with payroll immediately, otherwise we'll really be short of money," Miklas said. "Right now, looking at the budget we'll be running out of money before you know it."

Concerning transfers, Dexter Jones attempted to qualm fears with his efforts to ensure proper transfers. Jones again found disapproval when it was brought forth that he had enlisted the help of water department personnel in the research of payment histories. Councilmen Chuck Wise and Howell informed the mayor that a vote had been taken in the past to restrict outside personnel from the city office in order to limit the number of staff with access to confidential documents. In defense of his decision to do so, Jones questioned the capability of current office personnel.

Wise spoke up against the mayor's authorization of water department personnel for office work without council approval. "So you basically don't need us as council people," Wise said. "I haven't been informed. Things are being done, people are being brought in for meetings, other things, projects, committees. I have no idea about some of the things that have gone on or that's going on until after the fact."

Pledging to consult with outside sources and accountants concerning their situation, Jones vowed to have evidence of their stability by next week's work session with the optimism he continued to exude toward the city's financial standing.

"I've said it in the past and I'll say it tonight, I feel very strongly that we're OK but I understand that there is still some skepticism. So my job over the next couple of days is to put everyone at ease," Jones said. "As of right now, I feel very confident that we can pay our employees. There is need for layoffs if our books are handled properly."

Agenda items when addressed continued to bring the conversation back to finances. The first item was the purchase of a wood chipper for public works. Need for the equipment and past treatment of the machinery was discussed as well as the need for size limits on yard debris. The chipper would cost about $40,000, according to estimates, and would be paid for by Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds. A vote was taken to table the item until the October regular meeting.

An agenda item for the renaming of Goodwin Street was proposed by the mayor to honor Harold Wise and his family's impact on the city of Kingston. Larry Posey of the Kingston Planning Commission addressed the council with concerns about renaming streets and placing memorials on public land. He asked for a resolution to be adopted proposing a procedure spelling out the criteria for such actions. A vote approved the forming of a committee to establish these criteria consisting of two councilmen and two members of the planning commission. Names will be reviewed and submitted for approval at a later date.

The last item on the agenda entitled City Hall Issues was to discuss job descriptions and salaries. It was brought to the mayor's attention that both the Police Chief and the former interim Police Chief are making the same amount. Jones repeatedly denied knowledge of the pay increase for former interim Police Chief Jared Smith and stated he spoke out against such an action. He asked to look over the matter and other financial statements to better address them as a whole at the next meeting.

The Kingston City Council will hold a work session Monday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. at city hall.