City Budget Not Approved-Council Members/Mayor At Odds Over Employee Manual
Written by Mark Chreene on September 9, 2020
The annual audit of financials for the City of Minden is usually the highlight of the Minden City Council meeting this time of year, but it took a back seat to an extremely tension filled and emotionally charged meeting on Tuesday night. Before all of the fireworks of the meeting occurred, the council did hear from Kristine Cole, CPA of Wise, Martin, and Cole, who gave the annual audit of financials for 2019-2020.
Cole stated that on the financials, the city received an unqualified opinion. Cole then took the council through the comparative numbers from 2018-19 versus 2019-20. According to the audit, the city’s combined net position increased from the previous year’s audit by $1.48 million. Last year’s audit showed that the net position decreased by approximately $300,000. Governmental Activities showed that city’s net position at $15,439,386; Business Type Activities at $22,905,526 and Total Primary Government at $38,344,912. In the Governmental Activities net position, expenses exceeded revenues generated by taxes and program revenues by $3.5 million, which was offset by transfers of $4 million from the city’s business type activities (utilities). Because of these transfers, the city’s governmental activities net position increased by $500,000. Business type activities saw a $1.3 million increase in the total net position. It was noted that this was after transferring the $4 million to governmental activities ($5.3 million before transfers). Total revenues for Governmental Activities decreased $3.74 million compared to a year ago. The biggest difference, Cole noted, was the amount of grants and contributions reported last year. The city reported $4.2 million in grants and contributions in 2018/19, while only reporting $872,000 in 2019/20.The city also reported $73,000 in insurance recovery and proceeds from sales of assets that it did not have in 2018/19. Expenses were about $400,000 higher than last year.
Business type activities showed that while charges for services decreased by $725,000, the city showed additional capital grants of approximately $800,000 to fund a sewer improvement project as well as an additional $1.2 million from the SWEPCO lawsuit settlement and power cost adjustment. City water charges decreased by $256,000 and sewer and electric decreased by $54,000 and $415,000 respectively. Total costs of all programs was $19.4 million with 73% of the costs occurring within the electric department. Cost of programs decreased by $866,000 with the decreases occurring in the cost of purchasing power.
Cole did report that the audit showed 5 findings, of which only 1 was resolved. The resolved finding was over Public bid law requirements. In 2018/19, the city did not follow public bid law requirements for purchases of airplane and jet fuel and for equipment purchases. Those showed corrected in 2019/20. The unresolved findings included:
- Controls over financial reporting: audit showed “significant adjustments to year end balances were needed due to a lack of controls over the financial reporting process.”
- Controls over Collections: audit showed city had a lack of control over their collections process.
- General Capital asset recordkeeping: City failed to maintain records of capital assets.
- Deposits in excess of adequate security: City had deposits in the local banks that were not adequately secured.
When asked of concerns with the city audit by Councilman Wayne Edwards, Cole stated her biggest concern was the large transfers of funds between departments, when those funds could be needed for large emergency repairs, etc. Cole also stated importance of expenses versus revenues. (See complete City of Minden Audit here.)
In other business:
- The council approved the hiring of Caitlyn Harrison, Police Officer for the Minden Police Department, subject to passing all applicable tests. The vote was 4-1, with Councilwoman Terika Walker the lone no vote.
- Approved the appointment of Michael Davis to replace Bobby Baker on the Minden Planning Commission. Davis’ appointment expires in July of 2025.
- Approved final plot split of property belonging to Annette Igo located at the south end of Jackson Street
- Approved final lot split of property belonging to Best Price Heating & Air Conditioning located at US Highway 80 and Deerfield Boulevard.
- After discussion, the council voted 3-2 to name the Minden Press Herald as the official Journal, with council members Wayne Edwards, Pam Bloxom, and Keith Beard voting yes; and Vincen Bradford and Terika Walker voting no.
- The council after much discussion and objection to having to amend the budget at the beginning of the year to account for crossing guards, voted 3-2 to table the adoption of the 2020-21 budget until later this month, when the changes could be made to include the crossing guards. Council Members Pam Bloxom and Keith Beard were the no votes.
- Approved the adoption of a resolution ordering and calling for a special election for the continuation of the Downtown Development District Special Tax. The tax would continue through December of 2030. The election will be held on December 5th.
- Adopted resolution requesting LA DOTD Division of Aviation provide funds to complete airport improvements at Minden Airport: (Obstruction removal, Perimeter fencing, Parallel Taxi Runway, Apron rehabilitation (design and construction), and Runway Rehabilitation.
- Adopted ordinance No. 1112, Levying taxes of 5.46 mills for the city of Minden and an additional 2 mills for those in the Downtown Developmental District (7.46 mills total in that district only)for 2020.
- Awarded bid No 4-20 for Sewer Jetter to Vacuum Truck Sales and Service with the lone bid of $79,800.
Tension had been building between Mayor Terry Gardner and council members Terika Walker and Vincen Bradford throughout the meeting on several items on the agenda, but reached a boiling point when the Employee manual revisions came up on the agenda. Councilwoman Walker expressed her displeasure of the item being added to the agenda to Mayor Gardner.
Things really heated up between Gardner, Walker, and Bradford when Gardner tried to explain his reasoning for placing the Employee Manual on the agenda, leading to City Marshall deputies coming to the council desk.
Councilman Wayne Edwards then asked the council to vote on the substitute motion offered by Walker to table the item, which passed 3-2 with Bloxom and Beard voting no. It was noted prior to the vote by Pam Bloxom that a Labor Attorney needed to be consulted for review before approving any policy changes.
The next City Council Meeting is set for Monday, October 5th.