Spending in city now on a short leash

By Charles Sercombe

How bad are city finances getting?

Let’s just say that some city officials basically want to start counting every nickel and dime.

At a special city council meeting on Tuesday, a bare majority of coucilmembers voted to restrict the spending of city dollars to the point where anything costing $1,500 or more must first receive approval by the city council.

And that resolution produced a firestorm of criticism.

Namely, how in the heck will the city be able to function, day-to-day, with that kind of restriction?

And also: The resolution appears to violate a city ordinance that says the council can’t weigh in on a spending decision until the dollar amount hits $10,000 or above.

A council resolution cannot, legally, overrule a city ordinance.

OK, enough of the legalities.

Here’s what’s behind this resolution, which was supported by Councilmembers Abdul Algazali, Cathie Gordon and Robert Zwolak: The city is in a budget deficit, the amount of which is about $2 million which could grow to $3.4 million within the next several months.

The city is seeking a loan from a bank or the state to tide it over for the next several months. If a loan doesn’t come through, there will be payless paydays for city employees and vendors starting around mid-May.

Councilmember Gordon made the proposal to require council approval for anything costing $1,500 or more.

“I don’t see this as a time to spend money,” Gordon said. “We have to get back to core services.”

Finance Director Nevrus Nazarko said the restriction will hamper paying basic bills, such as utilities.
“This resolution doesn’t give direction,” he said.

Councilmember Tom Jankowski was blunt in his criticism of the resolution.

“There is no reasoning with absurdity,” Jankowski said.

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