Approving a decision that has been debated in recent meetings, the city council voted to get rid of two full-time maintenance workers and move two police officers to reserve status. The motion was made by Councilman Ed Miklas and approved despite the reiteration by Mayor Dexter Jones that financial matters are stable and the confusion is a result of improper bookkeeping.
"In a short time, the city is not going to be able to pay the bills," Miklas said. "If we continue to transfer the money unabated we will deplete our water accounts. Then if a major breakdown occurs in our water system, there will be no money to make the repairs promptly. This will create a severe hardship for the people of Kingston. In addition, in just two and a half months, the city council will be faced with approving a new budget for 2011. How are we going to approve this new budget when both accounts would be depleted? It is obvious the city is overstaffed and underfunded. The expenditures exceed the incoming revenues by a substantial margin."
After the decision was made, the mayor and council met in executive session discussing personnel matters in the company of City Attorney Peter Olson. Returning after about an hour of closed session discussions, the council voted to amend their decision by adding that layoffs would be effective Nov. 9 as opposed to the immediate action voted upon originally.
Councilmen spoke of the decision with heavy hearts, expressing their displeasure in having to make such a choice. The difficult decision was expressed by the council as a necessary action to curtail expenditures.
"I think that we've got to do something. I don't know the right decision to make but I know that if we keep doing what we're doing, we're not going to make it," said Councilman Chuck Wise.
In response to the council's vote to layoff city employees, Jones stated again his confidence in the city's financial strength and the common practice of transferring funds from enterprise funds. He also rebutted Miklas' statement regarding the ability to repair the water system in case of a catastrophic occurrence with the existence of a sinking fund for such an occasion.
The concession to enact the decision at a later date was in hopes of clearing the picture on the city's financial matters. The audit, which is months late due to improper records according to Jones, may also be available by next month's regular meeting on Nov. 8.
"As far as the city being broke, like I've stated in the past, that simply is not the case," Jones said. "We will practice different standard accounting principles in the future to avoid this situation."
Employees to be laid off were not determined in open meeting. The reserve status of officers would place them in a volunteer position if they choose to continue serving the city in such a capacity.
The city council also voted to begin advertising an open position for City Treasurer vacated by Celeste Keeter last week.