No big surprises in final budget review

Sunnyside’s administrative costs will remain relatively flat, but some requests were made for special funding when the Sunnyside City Council met for two hours last night to continue its review of the 2016 budget.

A new command vehicle for the fire department, membership in the National League of Cities, new carpet for the Sunnyside museum and an upgrade to help the city communicate with citizens in the event of an emergency were all discussed.

This week’s budget meetings brought the city council up-to-date on the needs of various city departments as each department head made their case for funds for next year.

Fire Chief Aaron Markham noted at the beginning of the meeting that departments are competing for the attention and approval of the council.

“We have to compete amongst ourselves for a limited amount of revenue,” he said. “It’s difficult to sit and see other departments get things they wished for. It’s hard to not put down another department because we feel that what we want is more important.”

Markham’s requests were mostly modest. He asked for funds to remount the last active ambulance in order to have all three using the same engines. He said a fourth ambulance still running on diesel won’t be remounted and will only be used as a reserve.

The fire department also wants to purchase another power cot so all three ambulances have one. Markham said the cots are helping his crew stay healthy and preventing future back problems due to lifting. The department purchased two cots last year.

The big request from the fire department is a replacement of a command vehicle. Markham said he made the same request last year, but was denied.

“The vehicles aren’t getting any newer,” he said.

Markham said the city has failed to maintain a fund to purchase new vehicles as old ones wear out, making the purchase more difficult than it should be. He said the vehicle, fully equipped, will cost about $50,000.

He also noted the current command vehicle he uses has a major safety issue. There is no cage to protect the driver from the equipment stored in the back if the vehicle is in an accident.

Finance Director Elizabeth Alba said the city is running into the same problem across many departments due to a lack of forward planning.

“2005 was a big year for the city in making purchases,” she said. “Now, 10 years later, we need to replace a lot of that equipment.”

She said the plan is for the city to establish funds to incrementally purchase equipment over the years as it wears out instead of buying everything at once.

On that note, City Manager Don Day said the city hopes to use REET funds, which have limited uses by law, to make several upgrades to the city museum.

“The carpet at the museum is museum quality,” he said dryly, referring to the old flooring that can no longer be properly cleaned due to its age and condition.

In addition to replacing the carpet, the city wants to install a proper heating and cooling system in the building. He said the total amount of the upgrades would be about $35,000.

Day also requested an add-on to the city’s website. He said the city still has no effective way of communicating with citizens in an emergency.

One possibility is a system that would link the city’s website to an off-site location in the event of an emergency, preventing crashes due to power failure or other issues. The city would be able to issue detailed instructions on the website. The system would cost about $6,000 annually.

Day asked the council if they wanted to hear a presentation on the system as the budget process continues. The council agreed.

Mayor Jim Restucci also had a request for the budget. He asked for council to consider joining the National League of Cities, an annual cost of less than $1,500. He said that, in addition to the benefits of having a voice in government as part of the league, the citizens of Sunnyside would also receive prescription discount cards.

Day said he had experience with the cards from his previous county job, and that they work well when citizens choose to use them.

The council agreed to consider the item if the budget is not too tight.

Alba said the major costs coming from the finance department this year will involve training in the system the city is using to code its finances. The training is necessary to avoid future negative audits. Alba is requesting the budget for training be doubled from $1,500 to $3,000.

One sore point for council was a $232,745 line item that is the interest on the bond the city used to buy the Monson property. According to Day, the city will be able to refinance the debt in 2017, but otherwise the debt will last until 2027.


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