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Stage set for future discussions

Freeze on expenditures?

White Salmon City Council met this week in a rescheduled Monday session at which it declined to act on calls for spending restraint to help alleviate a projected $60,000 year-end shortfall in its 2008 current expense budget.

City budget advisory committee members Jackie Dietsch and Shirley Cox implored Mayor David Poucher and a short-handed council--though a quorum, only three members were present at Monday's meeting in the fire hall--to address the potential overrun by freezing discretionary spending while the committee comes up with recommendations for resolving the 2008 budget.

Council member Timi Keene echoed the worries voiced by Dietsch and Cox in a three-page statement she read for the record. In it she outlined her concerns about non-essential spending and the budget shortfall, and suggested actions the council could take to deal with them.

Keene closed her statement by moving to amend the council's agenda to change the order of business "to consider the immediate freeze on spending" and open up her other proposals for discussion.

Her motion died as neither Bob Landgren nor Leona Johnson--each was seeing Keene's proposals for the first time that night--offered to second it. (Council members Ricky Marx and Brad Roberts were absent.)

But even in the absence of action, the council remained stuck on the issue of discretionary spending as the discussion moved on to an explanation for a city-paid trip for six individuals to attend a two-day "Introduction to Municipal Budgeting" workshop in Leavenworth put on by the Association of Washington Cities and Washington Finance Officers Association.

Poucher defended the expenditure as an important investment in staff development, suggesting a lack of training in municipal budget preparation and administration was partly to blame for the city's financial troubles. (Poucher, Landgren, Johnson, city clerk/treasurer Lori Kreps and budget committee members Dietsch and Don Tackley will be attending the Aug. 7-8 budget workshop.)

The council eventually moved on to other business but revisited the question of non-essential spending when Poucher sought council approval of a professional services contract with an organizational development consultant who had already done work for the city.

Landgren moved to table the action item until the next council meeting and his motion passed.

Finally, after a showdown of sorts over approval of checks (the payments were approved on reconsideration following a short recess), and in a nod of understanding toward Keene's frustrations with the budget, Landgren offered a motion to have consideration of waiving council's salaries for the rest of the year placed on the next council agenda.

That motion passed too and set the stage for follow-up discussion of the budget shortfall with a full council present.


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