Council puts pencils to mid-year budget revisions
The Nome Common Council Monday evening applied themselves to a work session without a break as they gave the City’s fiscal year 2018/19 budget a good mid-year tweaking to adjust projected revenues and expenditure figures to the actual figures and budget events at the annual halfway mark.
These amendments will take the City to June 30.
The 2019-2020 budget process will get underway soon.
As recently elected Councilwoman Jennifer Reader lobbed detailed questions at Julie Liew, finance officer, Liew shot back answers and cleared the net every time except once when she would have to check and get back. Reader attended by telephone.
The Council followed a memo from Liew and then needle-nosed printouts of the City’s five sets of funding plans—General Fund, Special Revenue, Capital Projects, Port of Nome, Port of Nome Capital Projects.
The Council voted these five funds into first reading with some amendments attached during their June 14 regular meeting; they will need to amend the budgets further before second reading and a vote on final passage at the next meeting of the Council on Jan. 28.
Liew’s memo to the Council showed the following mid-year amendments to the General Fund: Overall revenue before transfers to other spending plans needed to be adjusted downwards to a projected $11,282,771, a decrease of $5,156.79. Overall expenditure before transfers to other funds is projected at $13,120,026.94, an increase of $387,946.94. Liew attributed that increase mainly to an increase of $301,003.86 in the Nome Police Dept. budget for personnel, vehicle maintenance, training and other operating expenses and machinery and equipment through June 30.
The finance director noted an increase in amounts to be transferred out of the General Fund to individual funds, a change of total from $482,124 to $614.088.53: $343,124 to the Dept. Service Fund; $14,902.53 to Special Revenue Fund for Historic Preservation matching grants and museum reception for the Alaska Anthropological Society conference in February; $258,062 to Capital Projects Fund for road maintenance, dust control and snow removal, boiler upgrades to the Mini Convention Center and Nome Rec Center, plus design for the ice rink cover.
As a result, the General Fund’s deficit is projected to increase from $1,174,726 to $2,190,844.26, which will be appropriated from savings to balance the budget at $13,736,115.47.
NPD staff increase
It seemed that newly hired NPD Chief Bob Estes showed himself a quick study on what former chief John Papasodora had been telling the Council for years and demonstrating on quarterly reports: the department needed a bigger budget for more personnel and training to cover the streets case documentation and evidence custody. “We’re treading water right now,” Estes told the Council, “and we have to protect the citizens. “
The department needs at least two officers on patrol plus a staff of investigators, an evidence custodian, more dispatchers, an administrative assistant and a deputy chief, for a start, according to Estes. He called on NPD Officer Wade “Gray” Harrison to tell about a typical night. Harrison sat forward in his folding chair and obliged, speaking of suicide issues, domestic abuse, calls for assistance and family issues going on and needing an officer’s attention simultaneously. Department staff is reviewing about 500 cases going back to 2005 in the computer, according to Estes. Some are missing one element to be marked closed, like a lab report. Other cases bear the tag “pending,” but the meaning of pending is not uniform or consistent. For now, the department is focusing on three types of cases—domestic violence, sex assault and death. Over half the cases are fine, according to Estes.
“Chief Papasodora had so much going on he did not have a chance to go back and update cases,” John K Handeland, interim city manager interjected. “This is not the first time we have been pressed for personnel. Requests Chief Papasodora made did not make it through.”
Estes leafed his wish list onto the Council table for spending years 2019-2020: Sooner rather than later, the department needs addition of a lieutenant deputy chief, an increase from one full-time sergeant to two, an increase from one investigator to three (one full-time and two temporary positions), an increase from six full-time officers to seven, an increase in dispatchers, a drop in Community Service Officers from three to two, addition of a full-time administrative assistant and one temporary evidence custodian.
In 2020, the target number of NPD employees goes to 30: a chief, a lieutenant (deputy chief), a corporal for career development, a full-time investigator with two part-time investigators, 10 patrol officers, two Community Service Officers, two school resource officers, a part-time permanent evidence custodian, a full-time permanent administrative assistant, a communications supervisor, Communications Officers I, three Communications Officers II. Estes roughly estimated cost is $2.3 million to $3 million.
At the bottom of the NPD personnel wish list is a place for the city manager to sign approval.
There will be a long series of budget planning meetings already laid out on the calendar through the next three or four months before the Council adopts the next spending plan.
At a work session prior to their meeting Jan. 28, the Council will go over a list of proposed allotments to charitable and service organizations from the Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. for final approval.