Positive predicament 

Jim Couch addresses city council.
Credit: Shannon Cornman

The expected surplus comes from the estimated 3 percent growth the city will see over the next fiscal year following higher-than-anticipated sales tax collections in May and June.

The City Council on June 12 adopted the city’s $951 million 2012- 13 budget, and it was agreed that provisions regarding the projected surplus would be addressed at the June 19 meeting. At that meeting, council members voted to table the discussion until July 3.

During the council’s June 19 meeting, city staff presented five options for the council to act on: add Sunday bus service, add 20 police officers, make additional roadway improvements, put the money toward capital maintenance and repair funding for MAPS 3 projects, or do nothing with the money.

“I think we’re in a unique situation. This is a good situation we’re in right now,” said City Manager Jim Couch. “I don’t think there’s a bad answer to come out of this.”

Council members were given a chance to express their preferred option during the meeting.

Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell said he didn’t believe the council was in the best position to make the decision without thoroughly analyzing the entire budget; Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer, Ward 7 Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly and Ward 1 Councilman Gary Marrs suggested the money be held in reserve; and Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan urged caution on any sort of addition to the budget.

Ward 4 Councilman Pete White and Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee both said the calculations on the budget are sound and that the money should go toward hiring additional police officers, while Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid criticized the fact there is no dedicated funding source for police, pitting a core service of the city against other items.

“I don’t think anything you pull out … against police is going to win. If we set things up like this, where it’s a choice between police or X, X is always going to lose,” Shadid said. “I don’t like the way this is: this or that.”

Several visually impaired citizens spoke at the meeting, all favoring the creation of Sunday bus service.

“The system does need to service people in a better way. I honestly do not know how efficient or inefficient [the bus system] is and as far as how it spends its money,” said Ray Crowder, who is blind. “But I can say there is a lot of service that isn’t provided [by the bus system] that most people expect and really need it to do.”

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