Comments at Council Meeting
Comments made to the Bellevue City Council meeting on Monday, September 8, 2003, by former councilman and mayoral candidate Chuck FredrickGood evening Mr. Ryan, City Council, and Mr. Troutman,
From my experience of being on the City Council for 4 years, I know that budget time is always a time for tough decisions. It takes real leadership to do the right thing. One way to show real leadership is to set an example. Later on in my comments I will show how all of you can show real leadership.
I have attended the last few Council meetings on the budget, have read the minutes on the specific budget sessions and have been reading what has been written in the papers. I’m against any raise in the mill levy. When Councilman Jack Chavat indicated he may be in favor of raising taxes, I was glad to hear Councilman Gary Mixan step in and say the people are tired of tax increases. I’m tired of people saying if we don’t raise taxes we will have to cut services. Let’s not make general statements, let’s be specific on what services we are talking about. Let the department heads tell us themselves what jobs they won’t be able to perform under their leadership. I don’t buy and I don’t think the public buys the comment that the budget is barebone. There is still a lo of fat that can be trimmed off.
Councilman Dave Sanborn, who is always looking out for taxpayer dollars, has suggested a number of ways to cut city spending. Unfortunately, many of his ideas are ignored, or if considered, they are never acted upon. He has talked about contracting our services where costs could be reduced, review computer management, review telephone/cell phone procedures, hiring a full time engineer, have a revenue committee, like the one I served on my last couple of years on the Council, to look into such things as the empty MAT buses, sewer hookups, building permits, and use of the fire training facility by outsiders, and possibly advertising on city cars.
I have talked to Councilman John Ott and was encouraged by what he said. He told me he was not in favor of an increase in the mill levy until all possible cuts in spending were accomplished.
Here are some of my suggestions. Don’t renew our $30,000 membership to the NE League of Municipalities. Last year when I was on the Council, they were concerned we wouldn’t renew, so they sent a representative to one of the council meetings to speak about why we should renew. The representative said they would work on one of our biggest problems, and that is getting credit form the state of Nebraska for sales taxes that should have been credited to Bellevue, and not Omaha. I don’t think a thing has been done. I say we do not renew until that promise is fulfilled.
We need to do exactly what the city of Grand Island is doing. They are doing an audit of the personnel department. They realize that the biggest expense to the city is employee salaries and benefits. The same as ours. Grand Island thought it was only logical to try to save money on their biggest expense. One thing they found out was that some their employees were taking one or two days off during a week for legitimate reasons but on one or two days they worked that week they may work 10 hours of 11 hours instead of 8 hours. That day or days they worked, they were being paid overtime even though they worked less than 40 hours for the week.
I have been told that our average city employees make $62,000 a year. That number includes FICA and health benefits. We have a lot of good city employees and I got to know a number of them by serving on the Council for 4 years and running for mayor last year. The morale of many of these hard working city employees is low because there are a number of city employees that aren’t pulling their load. Let’s say 10 of these people are removed from the payroll. That would save the city $620,000 a year. It would also have an effect on morale and probably increase the amount of work performed by other employees that are slacking off.
At a recent City Council meeting which I attended, Councilman Gus Ericson suggested that maybe we should think about hiring an Assistant City Administrator. We don’t need another highly paid person doing the job of the city administrator. I also heard some talk about creating a Public Safety Director that the Police Chief and Fire Chief would report to. Another highly paid position created that we do not need, just have the people in their current positions do their job.
I made the comment earlier about showing leadership by setting the right example. I suggest the Mayor’s salary be reduced from $15,000 back to $12,000 a year and the Council pay to be reduced to $6,000 a year form the current $7,000 a year.
Mr. Troutman, I read that you wrote your own contract. In reality the contract should have been written and approved by the Council before any interviews were conducted. The City Administrator positions that all the candidates applied for was posted at $81,000. Mr. Troutman, rewrite your contract for $81,00, forget about the clause that you can go back to Personnel Director (I feel that clause could be challenged in a court of law) and write out (omit) your car allowance. I don’t believe any city employee or elected official should get a car allowance.
If you send this message to the city employees, then they will realize that â€œHey, my boss isn’t trying to get everything he can from the city, maybe I should follow his example.â€ That’s called leadership.
Also, the $5,900 that the taxpayers paid for the search company for hiring a City Administrator should be paid out of your own pocket, Mr. Ryan. The selection of the City Administrator was a sham. You already knew who you were going to appoint before the search began. This was verified at a City Council meeting by Councilman Larry Cascio, when some of the council wanted to wait 2 more weeks to get to talk to Mr. Troutman, Mr. Cascio stated they had plenty of time to talk to Mr. Troutman, because it has been an open secret for monthsthat Mr. Troutman was going to be our new City Administrator.
There are two sections of the city code that the people of Bellevue should be made aware of and that both the elected and appointed officials must follow.
Section 2-168 of Bellevue Code:
Except for purposes of inquiry, the City Council and Mayor shall deal with the administrative services of the city through the administrator and neither the Mayor, Council, nor members thereof shall give orders directly to any subordinate of the City Administrator.
Section 2-168 states:
The City Administrator shall deal with the Mayor and Council as a body.
In conclusion, all of you have the chance to set an example tonight and for the rest of your term in office. The city employees need to have leaders that set good examples and more importantly the tax payers of Bellevue deserve that same right. Thank you very much for your time. God bless.