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Portola passes budget amid rise and fall and rise again of ad hoc committee

Diana Jorgenson
Staff Writer

The Portola City Council passed its 2011-12 budget at its June 22 meeting, but not without public challenge.

Portola resident Fran Roudebush said, “I’m asking that you postpone passing this budget, or at the very least, remove salary and benefits from this budget. What we are looking at as far as rate increases is the Operations and Maintenance (in water and sewer funds) and a lot of that is salaries.”

By “we,” she was referring to the ad hoc committee composed of Mayor Pro Tem Juliana Mark and council member William Weaver. A number of residents, including Roudebush, were participating in the committee meetings, meetings which had been suspended since the last council meeting.

Prior to leaving on a previously planned trip, Mayor Dan Wilson had written a letter disbanding the committee and posted it on the group’s website.

He stated in his letter, “It was the goal of the committee to come up with reasonable alternatives or compromises to increasing the water and sewer rates for Portola citizens by $10 a month per household. I did not visualize a witch hunt against city employees.”

Mark surmised that he had been offended by remarks against city employees made on the website, but felt he did not have all the facts at his disposal.

She agreed that old grievances had been raised and subjects had been addressed that were outside the range of looking at Operations and Management costs. She and the others had agreed to narrow their focus to the task at hand.

“We’ve determined the boundaries now and I think it will be great,” she said.

As acting mayor, she then re-formed the disbanded committee and members made plans to meet the following Thursday.

Mark, however, did not agree with Roudebush’s budget request.

She said that the idea was not to change existing salaries but to look into the proportional allotment into each fund.

City Manager Jim Murphy introduced the budget as the smallest in three years.

He pointed out that travel expenses were down to bare bones, Railroad Days had only been budgeted for $5,000, rather than this year’s $15,000. Support for the City Lights Concert Series was reduced to $4,000 from a $15,000 budget this year.

The budget did not include any of the proposed rate increases currently under review, and it took into account Murphy’s retirement and did not allot the city manager’s salary.

It reflected the inclusions stipulated by the council, such as the re-instatement of the community service officer and continuing the contract with the sheriff’s office.

Although the full $75,000 for law enforcement services is included in the budget, the council only approved, with the sheriff’s knowledge and consent, a six-month contract. They approved the contract immediately after approving the budget.

The council plans to review the financial situation in six months. At that time, members hope to know whether they will be getting COPS funding from the state. The COPS grant usually funds both the sheriff’s contract and the community service officer.

The meeting was not a smooth one and Mark found her gavel necessary on more than one occasion.


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