Council Adopts Budget With Public Input

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by Valerie Garner

Roanoke City Council made final decisions at a work session last week on most all concerns that citizens had brought before them at a public hearing the preceding week. With revenue stabilizing, the school board funding formula revamped, and the new budgeting process City Manager Chris Morrill brought on board, this year was a breeze compared to last year’s struggle. Council unanimously adopted the $258 million fiscal year 2012 budget on Monday.

The list of items considered at council work session included:

Recycling: Council decided against using six recycling drop off centers placed around the city. The potential savings of $295,000 would be offset by having to hire one full-time employee along with additional cleanup expenses. Recycling will remain “as is.”

Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia: The Human Services Committee recommended they not be funded. The decision will be delayed on appeal to the Human Services Committee. The committee has a scoring system that divides a total of $452,000 between all agencies.

Brain Injury Services is requesting $18,400 for FY2012. According to assistant city manager Sherman Stovall, there is $16,000 yet to be allocated. Due to some confusion, Brian Injury Services failed to apply for HUD funding this year. They received $10,000 from HUD in FY2011.

Western Virginia Land Trust: The request for $2600 will not be funded. City manager Chris Morrill and city attorney Bill Hackworth both noted that funding the monitoring of the Carvins Cove and Mill Mountain easements was not part of the agreement with the Trust. All thought they had done enough by granting the easement. This was supported by Rupert Cutler.

Virginia Cooperative Extension: The VCE will remain level funded at $68,300. Council asked to continue monitoring the benefits of the extension for subsequent year funding.

Deer Culling: Urban archery was not recommended and came off the table quickly. Assistant manager Brian Townsend called it more of a recreational sport. It was rejected quickly as Townsend explained the various state mandate components – licensing, non-antler deer (does) only to be culled, private property with acreage requirement. Urban archery had resulted in only 300 deer being culled throughout the state in 2010.

The funding allocation of $75,000 for three years stood as recommended. With 396 deer culled in the past three years it averages out to $165 per deer culled.

Cell Phone Stipend: To eliminate administration overhead and ease the complicated procedure of reimbursement for business calls on personal data assistants and cell phones, city council and some employees will now receive a stipend. The stipend will replace cell phones provided by the city. It will be eased in over time as the phone numbers are eliminated. This is expected to minimize confusion for callers.

The stipend per month is $30 for a cell phone and $50 per month for personal data assistants. The measure is expected to be “budget neutral.” Public Safety personnel will continue to use city devices.

City Attorney Bill Hackworth brought to council’s attention a previous week’s FOIA workshop discussion. He reminded council members that city business conducted by personal assistants is subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Jefferson Center emergency maintenance: Cyrus Pace, executive director of the Jefferson Center, is seeking funding for their leaky roof and has reported that there are also other maintenance needs coming down the pike. Council members were reluctant to set a precedent since the contract requires the lessee to maintain the city’s asset.

City Manager Chris Morrill said “what he is hearing from council members is that it won’t be the whole amount but a challenge amount based on fundraising.” He wants the Jefferson Center to show they have a maintenance plan going forward. He estimates that assistance would be a one-time deal of approximately $100,000 and “it will not be precedent setting,” insisted Morrill. He will come back to council with a recommendation.