Olness to veto city’s 2014 budget

What was to be the final Black Diamond City Council meeting of the year Dec. 12 took a surprising turn when Mayor Rebecca Olness announced she planned to veto the 2014 budget.

By vetoing the ordinance, another meeting must be convened to consider either amending or overriding the mayor’s veto.

A meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 27.  At that meeting the council may either override the veto or consider a different budget ordinance.

The mayor has 10 days to send a written notification of the budget veto to the council. According to state law the council must pass a balanced budget by Dec. 31.

The mayor stated Dec. 13 by phone she would veto the budget because it was “unreasonable, especially with the cuts to IT (internet technology) and facilities coordinator position.”

The budget items Olness referred to cut the position for information technology manger, Chip Hanson, and cut the salary of the facilities coordinator, Kevin Esping, by $13,000.

According to Olness, the administration presented a balanced budget to the council Oct. 10 that included, “some difficult decisions to make with YarrowBay reductions and decreasing revenues in some areas.”

She cited the top priorities as, “What is best for the city (and to) try to be fair, equitable and cause the least amount of damage to both people and their department.”

Councilwoman Janie Edelman said by email Dec. 13 in response to the veto that the council has, “held five work studies since Aug. 15, the last on Dec. 5. We also held two public hearings for citizen input. This was in addition to the numerous finance committee meetings where the budget was discussed.”

Edelman said cuts were necessary due to funding cuts by YarrowBay.

“It was decided to contract out the IT activities,” Edelman wrote. “This reduction meant other cuts previously planned could be reinstated. This was not surprising to anyone.  The surprise was when the mayor announced her intention to veto the budget.”

Two of the reinstatements included the positions of natural resources-parks director and finance director. The mayor’s budget reduced the positions to 32 hours per week and the council budget kept the positions at 100 percent.

The council budget also increases the city administrator position to five days a week.

Councilwoman Carol Benson wrote in an email Dec. 13, “At the last work study on Dec. 5, the city administrator asked if we wanted a 30-90 day transition with Chip (Hanson) and we all agreed that we did not. May (Miller, finance director) had prepared the final budget without Chip and the mayor did not make any objections at that time. May was not aware that the mayor intended to veto the budget based on the IT issue. I did not know the mayor had an issue either.”

Olness wrote in an email that she read the following statement into the record at the council meeting, “I do not plan on signing this ordinance, but rather, intend to veto it … So, within 10 days, I will notify council in writing of my intent to veto the ordinance. In the meantime, hopefully we will be able to discuss and negotiate a compromise that is mutually acceptable. I would also like to revisit the Planning Commission appointments. As you know, we followed to the letter the new guidelines approved by Ordinance No. 12-981 on Oct. 4, 2012. No. 2 of 9 procedures states that, ‘it is the goal of the appointment process to maintain a full seven-member commission. No more than one meeting should elapse without a vacancy being filled.’ With the first meeting slated for Jan. 7, this does not seem possible.”

Edelman said she expects the veto to be overturned by the council.

Mayor-elect Dave Gordon wrote in a email regarding the budget veto, “The council’s decision on the budget should be respected. A veto should be reserved for major issues that significantly affect the functioning of the city. This is another example of a breakdown between the council and mayor. Talk early, talk often, and resolve differences one by one … that is the way to put together a budget. My new administration will learn from this episode and work hard to collaborate with each council member.”


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