A couple of weeks ago, Saline City Council discussed belt-tightening measures as a response to potential revenue shortfalls caused by the economic impact of COVID-19.
Monday night, council was back in mood for spending as the group of seven continue to see-saw their way to a budget compromise.
After a nearly 90-minute executive session meeting, Mayor Brian Marl began the public work session by stating the need for a deputy police chief, a captain or some form of “number two” officer in the organization. Chief Jerrod Hart had included the position when the department heads submitted their first drafts of their budgets. The proposal didn’t survive the its review with City Manager Todd Campbell, but remained on the budget documents for council to see.
Over the last eight weeks, despite growing concern over the potential for lost revenue from the state, Councillor Dean Girbach has vocalized support for Hart’s request.
Monday night, Marl joined him. Marl said he changed his mind after listening to Hart’s recent presentations about staffing issues in the department.
“I think it’s necessary for the organization’s well being to re-establish a number two position sometime this year,” Marl said.
Marl once against reminded people the Saline Police Department was staffed by a deputy chief from the early 1980s until 2011, when Jack Ceo retired and was not replaced as the city grappled with budget issues.
“The problems faced by the Saline Police Department since 2011 haven’t diminished. They’ve only increased,” Marl said.
Councillor Dean Girbach agreed and snd suggested the city ought to find a way to fund the position.
Council was supportive of the idea. Mayor Marl instructed Treasurer Mickie Jo Bennett to estimate the cost of the position and include it in the budget for council’s review next Monday.
Council is budgeting for a $214,508 surplus.
The last-minute addition of a deputy police chief position to the budget may have undermined council’s earlier compromise on spending $65,000 for a human resources consultant. Before the compromise, a majority of council wanted to hire a full-time human resources director. Mayor Marl and councillors Girbach and Ceo were opposed. They agreed to a compromise for human resources consultant that would cost the city about $65,000.
After Mayor Marl loosened the reins on the budget enough to find money for a deputy police chief, members of council once again began talking about the need for a full-time human resources director.
“In my opinion, we should move money ahead right now and begin the process of hiring an HR professional,” Councillor Janet Dillon said. “We did talk about $65,000 for the consultant. I think we need to revisit that to see if we need something more than that.”
DIllon said she wanted to make sure the department has enough dollars to fund these positions.
Treasurer Mickie Jo Bennett said the city had $2.1 million in its general fund balance.
Councillor Kevin Camero-Sulak also called for a full-time human resources employee.
“In light of all the challenges we have, we’re finding ourselves in greater need of a full-time human resources person who can streamline and take some responsibilities of a number of people’s plates that are already overfull,” Camero-Sulak said. “It’s become abundantly clear that a greater need exists. So, I support having those discussions a little more.”
Councillor Christen Mitchell said she wanted to add the HR position as an agenda item at the next council meeting.
In other budget news:
Council added $10,000 for unspecified COVID-19 related costs.
Council added $2,000 for diversity training.
There’s $40,000 in the budget to clear a backlog of building inspection issues dating back to 2009. That work will be done over the next two years.
Saline Parks and Recreation is budgeting for a normal year at this point. Director Carla Scruggs said she can’t predict what revenues and membership at the Rec Center will look like. It’s unclear when the Rec Center will re-open.
Council has removed $20,000 dedicated for parking enforcement from the budget.