Last Modified: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 5:29 PMWESTLAKE — The Westlake City Council rejected the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year at a specialcalled meeting Monday night. The meeting lasted less than two minutes with no discussion of the budget during the meeting. Council members Wally Anderson, John Cradure and Bob Hardey voted against accepting the budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, while Lori Peterson-Manuel and Dan Racca voted to accept it. As soon as the vote was in, Racca moved the meeting be adjourned. Another special-called meeting about the budget will be held next week. The meeting was called because members of the council said they had not had time to look at the budget by the June 18 meeting, the council’s regular monthly meeting. Cupit said that changes to state law, as well as the loss of the $1.8 million per year Isle of Capri had been paying the city (for having a gaming boat docked inside city limits) and the $1.4 million Westlake is paying to build a clubhouse at The National Golf Club of Louisiana contributed to the budget being a little late. “We’ve taken that and we’ve pretty well shut everything down and put a barebones budget out,” Cupit said. “If they don’t have time to look through it, then they can take a few more weeks to look through it, but they’ve had it for over a week now.” Anderson, Cradure and Hardey said the proposed budget they received left questions unanswered. “To me that’s not a complete budget,” Anderson said. “It’s not transparent, it’s not open information,” Cradure said. “We have the public trust to make sure that we pass a balanced budget... that we put a fiscally responsible budget together. I cannot give a fiscally responsible budget if I don’t have all of my questions answered and we didn’t get them all answered.” Cupit asked the council to email him their questions about the budget and that he would respond. He said Anderson had already emailed him questions to which he had responded. “He didn’t give all of the answers,” Anderson said. “As far as I know there was absolutely no way I could figure out what their questions would be tonight when none of them submitted anything to me except Wally and we responded to that and apparently, he didn’t like what he got,” Cupit said. Cradure and Anderson said one of their chief concerns is the transfer of money. Cradure said there are a total of $2.5 million in transfers. “Basically, there’s transfers into each department to balance them out and they don’t show where those transfers are coming from,” Cradure said. “Is it coming out of a savings account? Is it coming out of reserves? Where is that money coming from? That’s the reason I voted against it.” Cupit and Lonnie Smart, chief administrative officer, said they don’t know what unaccounted for transfers the councilmen were referring to. “Transferring money in the books of the city is something that normally happens,” Smart said. “This is fund accounting.” “We’ve been going on like this for 100 years, I don’t know what they mean when they say transferring funds,” Cupit said. The process that is being done now has been done on budgets forever.” Hardey said that in previous years two council members sat on the budget committee, which has been done away with. He said he believes two members should continue to serve on the committee. “I want two council members to sit down with the mayor and whoever and decide if this is the correct budget for the city and make sure we’re spending the money correctly,” Hardey said. “Jimmy (Ashworth, finance director) and Lonnie made it up and now they want us to vote it in, just like it is. I take that personal. That’s what I’m elected to do. ” Cupit said that the two council members were not included on the budget committee because the budget is put together by the department heads. “They come up with what they need, we throw it around between all the department heads (and) the staff, we look at our money and then we prepare a budget from that,” Cupit said. “For the past three years, I appointed a budget committee. I didn’t have to appoint a budget committee, but I just threw in two council members so that they could watch the process. It didn’t resolve any issues, it didn’t help us any, they didn’t have any influence on it, so I just did away with the two council being part of it.” Hardey, Anderson and Cradure said they also had concerns about raises. They said that some city employees received higher raises than others. “I want two council members to sit down with this budget and go over it and look at the raises for different people,” Hardey said. “I didn’t think the raises are fair. I want an answer and I’m not voting for it unless I get an answer.” Cupit said all city employees were given a 2-percent raise and that some supervisors and department heads received “salary adjustments because of the additional responsibilities the city has fallen heir to with the golf course, the new residential area, the additional responsibilities with the gas sales.”
Posted By: honest abe On: 6/27/2012
the city of westlake is tight and money hungry, the only people that make money are the ones who are hiding it and not provisioning it to people who deserve it or need it.....