Jun 222011

By Naomi Hatch–

The Snowflake Town Council unanimously approved a tentative budget for fiscal year 2011-12 in the amount of $7,661,138, a decrease of $141,275 from the present budget.

“Our biggest item in our budget is our employees and our benefit package, and I wanted the council to be more involved,” explained Mayor Kelly Willis, who asked Town Manager Paul Watson to include the council more in negotiations for insurance. “I just want us to be aware of what’s going on more than anything else.”

“I’ve asked Paul (Watson) and Brian (Richards, finance director) to take that line item and put sub line items underneath it so we can know how much we’re paying for the insurance program and benefits, and that type of thing,” the mayor continued. “I’ve also asked Paul before he chooses a program that we as a council have an opportunity to look at it and give our input in that if we so desire.”

Watson explained that they have not significantly changed the employee contribution. They have tried to hold the line so employees don’t take a reduction in pay. “In lieu of that, we have changed the employee health plan significantly,” said the town manager.

He noted that when he was hired as town manager, employees had a $100 deductible, with the town paying all of employee premiums and 90 percent of dependent premiums. They now have a $2,600 deductible. “That is a significant difference to the employees, but we did that in trying to manage these increased costs that keep coming after us year after year after year,” he said.

Watson said staff will bring the information to the council prior to making a decision on health insurance.

Richards explained changes made by the legislature that will have an effect on Snowflake. He said that SB 1460 states that if they have an extra tax on prepared food, all of that money must be exclusively spent on tourism. Snowflake has a one percent tax, which brings in $105,000. Richards explained that the money can be used three ways: for direct expenditures, such as the Tourism Committee; for contracts between cities and towns for non-profit organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, Rodeo Committee and fireworks; and to develop or improve things that bring in tourism, such as the golf course, but they are getting clarification as to the golf course qualifying.

The finance director noted that HB 2572 mandates that by 2013, cities and towns must have a searchable data base on a website, which would be a great expense to the town; however, a law was passed that said if there is a comprehensive annual financial report and the town has the Certificate for Achievement in financial reporting, that will suffice. For the past five years Snowflake has received that certification.

“That’s a credit to Brian Richards,” said Vice Mayor Jason Whiting, noting that only 30 towns have that certification and only two of those have less population than Snowflake.

The other law is HB 2522, which requires that five years of budgets be available on the website. Richards explained that they can include Schedule A of the budget on the town website to meet that requirement.

In other business, Richards requested some budget adjustments. He noted that at the beginning of this fiscal year, the council approved painting police cars and this would take the total amount of that line item. He went on to explain that the police chief received a grant for a car that hadn’t been budgeted, so he was asking the council to increase the police budget by $30,000.

“This is a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) grant,” said Police Chief Jerry VanWinkle, explaining that they were able to purchase his car for $13,000 with that grant.

“If we have an item unbudgeted, even if we get money from an unexpected grant or other source and the department budget goes over, we have to have approval from the council to transfer funds from another department,” Watson explained.

Richards noted that is why they have the contingency fund, which is not hard money. He said that even though a grant is received, it must be shown as an expenditure in the budget.

The fire department budget needed to be increased by $50,000 to cover an increase in salaries and wages due to fires outside of the area and for the purchase of a generator. The town will be reimbursed for the increase in expenditures for the fires and has received payment for the recent Catalyst mill fire.

The council unanimously approved the budget adjustments of $30,000 for the police department and $50,000 for the fire department.

Richards asked that the council approve Darlene Wood, CPA, to audit the town. Wood has been the town’s auditor for the last nine years and proposed a cost of $11,500 for this year’s audit.

Richards received a proposal from Hinton/Burdick in the amount of $11,825, but because it is an out-of-state firm, Richards requested that the council approve Wood’s proposal.

“I totally commend you for the way you handle our business and your excellent award, and I understand Darlene (Wood) does a fantastic job and you approve of her,” said Councilwoman Beverlee Kay. “My suggestion is, you’ve used her for nine years and sometimes it’s good to have a new set of eyes come in, because sometimes they find something that has been overlooked.” Kay said she felt they should consider Hinton/Burdick.

Richards explained that Hinton/Burdick had asked what the previous fee was and then submitted a fee that is $3,000 lower than is charged other cities and towns that they audit in the area because Richards would prepare the financial statements.

“Brian and I had this conversation almost as you presented,” said Watson to Kay. “I recommend that this next year we actually get proposals from anyone who is interested in doing our audit and then we evaluate them, not just on price.”

A motion to ask staff to sign the engagement letter with Wood passed unanimously.