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Sharp reaction to budget shortfall projection
Two members of the Mammoth Town Council last week were sharply critical of Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez following the revelation that the town would face a budget shortfall of $562,527 in the next fiscal year.
“You can count me in the category of being both frustrated and confused, as some other people have expressed,” said council member John Eastman at the Town Council meeting on May 1.
“Personally, I’m tired of the continued misjudgment of our budget and the continuing of cut-cut-cut and the instability that is created within our organization by this misjudgment in our budget.”
Mayor Matthew Lehman also delivered some pointed remarks at Marysheva-Martinez.
“Before we start making any decisions on specifics, I want to look at the whole budget and see if there aren’t other areas we can potentially look at making changes,” he said.
“I do agree with John, though,” Lehman said. “It seems like we’re always cutting, cutting, cutting. We may have to start looking at some other options.”
Marysheva-Martinez said the town would be $562,527 short unless the council put balancing options into place before the start of the 2013-14 fiscal year beginning July 1.
“The five-year plan became the foundation for the town’s future budgets,” she said wrote in an agenda bill, “[but] the plan was developed with financials at a high level, and was based on history through September 2012.”
She said after the town’s finance department reviewed individual revenue and expenditure line items, “the resulting financials are different from the initial five-year projections.”
Among the options before the town staff are to delay hiring a community and economic development director, a budget and management analyst, a second transient occupancy tax specialist, and a new police officer.
The subtotal for delayed hirings would range between $274,235 and $548,471, depending on whether the delay is for six months or a full year.
Council member Michael Raimondo weighed in on the hiring of a second TOT specialist, saying the town’s lifeblood is in TOT collections and that he did not want to get in the way of moving forward with collections. Raimondo found support with Lehman on the issue.
“I agree with Michael as far as cutting into the TOT area,” Lehman said. “That’s a revenue generating area and I don’t want to touch that, personally.”
In her own defense, Marysheva-Martinez reminded the council of past budget woes.
“Three years ago, when you interviewed me for the interim position, you thought you had $14 million in the bank but you only had one.
“Three years ago, you had a budget before you that did not include $2.7 million in line items.
“So now, it’s $500,000. It’s not perfect; we could have done better, and with more staff and better technology we probably would have, but please give us credit for what we have done.”
Council member Rick Wood reminded the audience that the budget workshop on May 1 was only the first of many on the horizon leading up to the adoption of a 2013-14 budget by July 1.
“It is true,” Wood said, “that we continue to be challenged fiscally for a variety of reasons; I don’t see it as the end of the world by any means, and I for one really want to hear from members of the public if they have preferences about what we ought to be spending our money on, what our priorities should be, where we should we continue to cut and how to raise additional revenue.
“Oftentimes I think the assumption is that we just know what to do. These are hard choices, but there are hard choices every year, because there is never enough money, whether we’re in good times or bad times, to do everything we want to do.”