A Wapakoneta City Council member refused to suspend the rule of three readings for supplemental appropriations until he has a more complete explanation of amounts shifting accounts and changes made to the city’s budget.
Wapakoneta 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier declined to suspend the rule of three readings for an ordinance to shift $25,000 into the Wapakoneta Fire Department’s personnel account to cover unemployment expenses from the contingency fund. With Councilor-at-large Dan Graf absent, Neumeier’s vote was needed to meet the six votes necessary to suspend the rules.
During discussion of the ordinance, Neumeier questioned administrators on who was receiving unemployment benefits, and the Finance Committee member also wanted to know where did $283,000 come from for the contingency fund when no money appeared in the account during the budget process.
“I am not prepared to suspend the rules and pass this until I get the answers I need,” Neumeier told his fellow councilors during Monday’s meeting. “Somebody is rewriting the budget and it is not the Finance Committee. If there is a logical explanation for this that is fine, but I want to know what is going on with the finances.”
Safety-Service Director Bill Rains said former Wapakoneta Fire Department Capt. Tom Stinebaugh is receiving unemployment after being terminated in August and winning his argument with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Office of Unemployment Compensation on his third attempt. The city won arguments with the agency the first two times Stinebaugh filed.
Rains could not answer why an amount appeared in the general fund on the city’s budget ordinance passed in March and not on spreadsheets used by Finance Committee members during the appropriations and budget process in January and February.
“I am really concerned about the general fund, especially in regard to the numbers we use to establish the city budget and to set the appropriations for city departments in comparison to what appears on the ordinance,” Neumeier said.
Neumeier conceded he knew the budget numbers do not translate exactly from the spreadsheets to the ordinance because financial figures on the spreadsheet may be combined on the ordinance, but he reviewed his spreadsheets from the last Finance Committee meeting and there was no money in the contingency fund in the general fund or the individual funds of the general fund and yet more than $250,000 appears. The budget ordinance sets all the appropriations for the city departments.
City Auditor Gail Walter, who was not present at the meeting, wrote in a memorandum to councilors, “This supplemental is to specifically fix a few things that were wrong in the budget this year. I am also trying to be proactive about keeping the budget adjustments current.”
Wapakoneta 3rd Ward Councilor and Finance Committee Chair Bonnie Wurst told Neumeier and fellow councilors “we are going to address this next year during the budget process” in regard to the budget spreadsheets more closley matching the ordinance passed by council.
After the meeting, Wurst said she intends to meet with Walter by herself about the budget process.
“When it gets closer to the actual budgeting process, I am going to talk individually with Gail about giving us the final numbers she uses to write the budget or appropriations ordinance and the final budget spreadsheet she uses which she has not done in the past,” Wurst said after the meeting. “She did tell us up front that the final spreadsheets we saw during the final Finance Committee meeting regarding the budget were not going to be the final numbers and that she was going to have to tweak some of the numbers.”
Wurst said it would help the Finance Committee and council of they were provided with a more accurate month-to-date, year-to-date expense and budget report with the budget ordinance in March before its passage and the same report once a month during the year. They receive reports during the budget process along with up-to-date spreadsheets for the budget or appropriations, but they did not receive the final spreadsheet.
“It is more important to us to have accurate spreadsheets that we can work with during the year as opposed to just the final budget or appropriations ordinance because the final budget does lump line items together,” Wurst said about the ordinance which is required to be finalized by April 1 and is in a format to meet state auditing standards. “I am going to go home and review the final spreadsheet to see if there were no contingency funds in the police and fire budgets and try to figure this out.
“I don’t know if additional funds appeared or she moved some money between funds because she noticed a discrepancy and fixed it,” she said. “We don’t know that and I need to discuss it with her and find out.”
The next scheduled Wapakoneta City Council meeting is for 7:30 p.m. July 1.