I am amazed at my own power here in Sunnyside. I have been off the city council for over three years and I am still writing, approving and overseeing their budgets. That is what Councilman Bruce Epps and and former Fire Chief Jim Stanton would have you believe as they blame past council members for the city's current budget problems.
When I left council the city had more than $8 million in reserves. They had at least $1.5 million in the current expense fund ( general fund) and over $1.2 million in the equipment rental fund. The city ran surpluses in six of the seven years I was on council. The year we did not run a surplus, the finance director had made an over $200,000 property tax collection error and the council decided to let the citizens keep the money rather then re-bill their taxes. We refused to raise taxes and fees, even though the staff constantly requested we do so, and the city ran surpluses.
The past council had five members with experience running their own business that demanded the city live within its budget. The current council has two members with business experience. They have raised taxes and fees continually, even passing a new cell phone tax and still can not balance a budget.
The council's number one job is writing, approving and overseeing the city's budget. The City Manager can not spend one penny not appropriated by the Council. The council needs to take the responsibility and cut recurring expenses, that means staff. The majority of the city budget is staff and their Cadillac, dare I say Mercedes, benefit package (over $1,000 per month per employee). The City Council has added numerous staff in the last three years, they also squandered the equipment rental fun, just look at all the new city vehicles.
Balancing your budget is not tough, just spend less then you take in. You don't need to raise taxes to do it and you don't need to blame other people for problems you had and have the power to solve.
/s/ Don Vlieger, Sunnyside