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Budget, what budget?

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Wilmer money problems continue for another year
The Ellis County Press

WILMER - As cities across the county, state and country are settling into their new fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, the City of Wilmer has yet to pass a budget for the 2003-2004 year.

Council members argued as to whether the 2003-2004 proposed budget should be discussed during the regularly scheduled Oct. 2 Wilmer city council meeting.

Councilman Don Hudson argued with Mayor Linda Root during the council meeting, saying the budget could not be discussed or approved because the council would be involved in an illegal meeting.

The first budget submitted on Sept. 15, only gave information regarding the general fund.

Root said the council should at least look at the general fund budget since it had been turned into the clerk's office 15 days prior to the meeting.

Hudson said the city would have to use the last budget submitted, because it contained data on the general fund and the water/sewer fund.

He said since it was filed two days before the hearing, it could not be heard on Oct. 1, because the council would be in violation of the law.

'You can't hold a public hearing,' Hudson said. 'Because it's against the law.'

The public hearing for the budget would have to be pushed to the Oct. 16 council meeting, he said.

Root said she had not turned in the revised budget including the water and sewer department until Sept. 30, because she had not been able to get the information concerning the water and sewer department in time for the first budget she had completed.

There are actually a total of five proposed budgets that have been submitted to the city clerk.

Root said she submitted the first budget on Sept. 15, after she learned two days prior, the law said a municipality's budget must be turned in 15 days before a public hearing can be held.

She said she did not know about the law stating the budget had to be posted so far in advance of a public meeting.

'Thom Lauer (city administrator) and Crystol Birdwell (city secretary) had a duty to inform me of this (the law) and did not,' Root said.

'We pay them to do this for us.'

She said she did not intentionally try to postpone the budget workshop by submitting the budget.

Lauer said under state law, Root as mayor, was the budget officer.

He said it is her duty to develop the budget and to inform council members of any problems with the budget throughout the year.

Under city ordinance Article 2, Lauer as city administrator is responsible for enforcing the budget, informing council members if the budget is under or over, and to help the mayor prepare the city budget, Root said.

The proposed budget, turned in by Root on Sept. 30, included budget information for the general fund, water and sewer fund.

Birdwell stamped and dated the fifth budget the mayor turned in on Sept. 30, as the official copy because it contained the general fund and the water/sewer fund.

Root said the auditor's report as of Sept. 23, showed the city's general operating fund balance to be in debt for $38,343.01.

A Bank of America bank statement dated, Sept. 1 to Sept. 30, shows an 'average ledger balance' of $91,748.44.

The statement shows the ending balance in September was $89,109.79, with more than $170,000 deposited into the account.

Bank records also show the day-end balance on Sept. 23 was $92,077.77.

'There is money in the bank,' Lauer said.

'But, because the budget was not passed tonight we will have to work off surplus funds.'

The city is operating on a surplus fund of $250,000 until the new fiscal year budget can be passed at the next city council meeting, Birdwell said.

Lauer said the auditor's records and bank statements would never match because it depends how often it takes city hall to send documents to the auditors and how fast the information is posted to the city's account.

He said the city constantly receives property taxes, water bills, building and renovation permits, franchise fees and county and state governments.

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