The debate over the 2011 city budget heated up during Tuesday night’s Liberty Lake City Council meeting.
While much was debated, little was settled as the council voted to have a special meeting on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall to further discuss the many issues that are still up in the air on a budget that must be approved by Dec. 31.
One issue that seemed to make progress was the fate of the city library. The city’s finance committee, comprised of Mayor Pro Tem David Crump and councilmen Odin Langford and Josh Beckett, recommended an annual budget of $340,000 for the library, an increase from the mayor’s original proposal of $318,000.
“As we ran it down in the finance committee, we looked at where they cut and saw they (the library board) didn’t have any leeway there,” said Crump, who added the original $350,000 budget counter proposed by the library actually came out to about $327,000. “So we looked at supplies and charges and said let’s give them $12,000. Because we had the initiative funding that wasn’t spent, we had that flexibility. What I’m hoping they do is that they’ll go look at that and come back and say we did cut too much. I think it’s within our budget and it’s our recommendation.”
The move will enable the library to keep its two full-time staffers. The library hours that were originally going to be cut from 46 down to 24 will now be reduced to 40 per week in the new proposal.
“I think it is a very good resolution,” said Mayor Wendy Van Orman. “This community really relies on our library. It’s our community center, and I’m glad we have new revenues to offset that.”
While the library issue seemed to be moving forward, the rest of the budget debate did little but raise the blood pressure of council and audience members in the chamber. Frustration flared on a number of occasions, the most notable when Councilwoman Susan Schuler left during the middle of the meeting.
Schuler had expressed frustration with Van Orman early in the meeting for keeping former Mayor Steve Peterson to just one three-minute citizen comment of his thoughts on the budget. Other audience members expressed the desire to hand their three minutes to Peterson to finish his oration, but the mayor declined, saying the “council would not be monopolized by one speaker.”
“I believe people should be heard,” said Schuler. “If someone had put in the time to find things we haven’t found, I feel it’s my responsibility to hear them. It frustrates me. If I have to stay until 1 a.m., I will. This is America and people should be heard.”
Later in the meeting, Schuler asked during the debate about the figures being presented in the budget, “How do we know if the information in the binder is accurate?” Van Orman countered, “They’re very accurate.” Langford then asked, “If it’s so accurate, why can’t you tell me what each charge is? What do we say? You want me to vote on it, and I have no clue what it is.”
Van Orman agreed that further information was needed on several proposals. Schuler then said, “When you get your stuff together, I’ll be back.” With that, she apologized to the voters in the chambers and departed the meeting.
The debate continued on about a number of issues, many of them brought up by Councilman Ryan Romney. Councilwoman Judi Owens seized upon a couple of the topics and saved her greatest frustrations with the future budget of the Trailhead city golf course.
“I need to see in black and white, or green and yellow, whatever it is, I need to see the numbers on how we’re going to take care of the golf course,” said Owens. “It’s a resource and an asset of the city. I need to see how we’re going to handle things.”