July 8, 2022

Pocatello for Accountable Government Entities, a local government watchdog group, posted the following assessment of yesterday’s Pocatello City Budget presentation on their social media page:


The budget is still being built and is NOT final yet. At today’s 07/07/22 Budget meeting, the CITY COUNCIL reduced the proposed 7% tax ask/levy increase to 4% by removing the 3% foregone amount for Capital Expenditures ($976,924) from the budget-build. Instead, the council chose to use existing General Fund Excess Reserves, Fund 78 (Capital Expenditures) or other fund reserves for these one-time expenditures, so no “new” tax ask monies from taxpayers will be required.

The 4% portion of the originally proposed 7% property tax increase remains in the budget build which INCLUDES:
$ 939,327 3% increase over base
$ 325,642 Plus 1% foregone for (Ops&Maint or O&M)
$ 176,216 Plus Estimated New Construction (NC)
$ 992 Plus Estimated Annexation
There will be a Work Session next week (unsure if the budget will be on this agenda), and there will be another Budget meeting next Thursday, 7/14/22, at 9:00 a.m.
We anticipate Council will move to publish the budget next Thursday, 7/14/22, with this 4% total tax ask/levy increase
A number of large one-time “Reserve” expenditures from the General Fund Excess Reserves (currently estimated as having $4,164,623 available), or Fund 78 Reserves (currently estimated as having approximately $1.3M available and “not already earmarked” and another approximately $1.9M earmarked by departments) or Street Fund Reserves were approved today which we’ll summarize in an upcoming post.
1. There was an emotional exchange between Councilmembers and between the Council and Police Chief regarding questions about absorbing two new (OUTSIDE FUNDED) positions in Police’s existing FTEs rather than “adding” two more positions.
For some reason, the discussions got hung up on whether those new FTEs could be absorbed by the five “grant-funded” FTEs police officers approved a few years back—something that was repeatedly reported “cannot be done.” There were accusations that these questions amounted to “defunding of the Police” which, in our opinion, was in no way suggested by any questions or discussion. 
No one seemed to remember there are a large number of other FTEs in the Police Department—not all of them within Patrol. 
Another key fact ignored during that digression: in order to defund something, you must reduce expenditures. As of the departmental presentations, the Police Department’s budget was estimated to increase by a minimum of $907,456 (or 5.49%). This deliberation surrounded whether or not to increase spending by 2 FTEs.
2. Councilmembers differed in opinion on whether the 4% budget increases benefitted the public directly. Councilwoman Leeuwrik argued that the entire budget is for the people. Councilwomen Ortega and Stevens expressed with the large tax increases residents are experiencing, there needs to be something tangible that can be seen and actually “used by the public”—that currently proposed increases were essentially “just to keep the lights on. (And, we would add, to provide all employees with 3% raises across-the-board.)
3. The new City CFO was present at the meeting, but the Mayor did not introduce him to the Council until Councilwoman Ortega asked where the new CFO was, and then the Mayor pointed him out in the audience.
In our opinion, it was an extremely awkward and unprofessional manner for the Mayor to introduce Council to the new CFO who has been employed by the City for four weeks now.
Later, Councilwoman Ortega tried to ask the new CFO whether he agreed it was preferable to limit the number of budgetary amendments (something the former CFO regularly spoke of as needing to be kept to a minimum), but the new CFO declined to answer.
The proposed budget as it is being built is irresponsible and is not sustainable evidenced by the fact that every dime of new revenue that they can get their hands on this year (over $2.4M) is needed just to balance the basic budget (i.e. wages, benefits, M&O).
The positive side – the council decided to not take the 3% in foregone for FY23. That won’t likely repeat itself next year, they are quickly depleting reserves.
To see the original post, click here.

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