Make your voice heard! A public hearing will be held at City Hall on Monday, August 23, 2021 at 6pm to hear your concerns and opinions about the budget.
FY 2021 Q3 Budget Presentation
All seven members of the city council were present at Monday’s meeting. The meeting began with Breanna Howard (the city’s Chief Financial Officer) giving a summary of the current year’s budget for the first three quarters. Twin Falls is performing very well in terms of spending vs. planned spending and income vs. planned income for fiscal year 2021. An interesting exchange came when, for the second time in less than a year, Councilman Greg Lanting once again raised the question of adding a tax on citizens for their internet service. His justification for proposing this new levy on working families seemed to be that since cable television usage is declining (and as a result the tax revenue that comes from cable service) the city should be able to add a new tax to replace it. The council briefly debated the legality of such a levy, Councilman Shawn Barigar voiced his support for one, and Mayor Suzanne Hawkins mentioned that broadband internet is coming to more cities in Idaho all the time. None of the council members raised any objections to adding another tax to the people of Twin Falls’ services. Ms. Howard informed the council that the city will be paying off more debts in the water fund in the coming quarter, which will leave only two bonds left to pay off.
City Council Compensation Raise
Mayor Suzanne Hawkins introduced the topic of council member compensation raises as the next order of business. Many of those members of the council who will serve beyond this term expressed discomfort and awkwardness debating this topic, while outgoing members Greg Lanting and Suzanne Hawkins championed the cause. Both outgoing members of the council expressed willingness to increase compensation by over 15% if the rest of the council would support it. Only Councilman Christopher Reid seemed willing to reign in the amount, expressing a desire to limit the raise to less than $100 per month (he suggested a raise of 8%). The last time the city council had any form of pay increase was in 2008, and according to the mayor, the job has become more time- and labor-intensive in recent years. Councilwoman Nikki Boyd opined that the position of city councilmember should be incentivized monetarily to attract quality candidates in the future. No one offered to prove the correlation between higher wages and better quality individuals running for local office.
Vice Mayor Ruth Peirce brought up the fact that the employees of the city over the same period of time since the council’s last raise have received an overall 41% increase in their pay, all but suggesting she and her cohorts deserved as much. Mayor Suzanne Hawkins reeled Ms. Peirce in by reminding her that being employed full time by the city and holding a position as a public servant on the council are very different situations. The mayor also mentioned that her goal in bringing up this item was not to gain parity between city employees and council members. Councilwoman Nikki Boyd expressed her thought that a 10% increase (or $116/month) was negligible and that she would support a further increase.
In the end, Councilman Greg Lanting motioned that the council approve a 15% raise, split over two years (a method that Meridian, ID has adopted recently). Several members of the council were uncomfortable with this split, and Shawn Barigar moved to amend the motion to make the raise a flat 10% increase effective next year. The council approved the motion in a 6-1 vote, with Chris Reid being the soul dissenter. Congratulations & you’re welcome, from my family to your pocket book, council members.
This week’s budget update was focused on the operations budget for the city. Water treatment, waste water, and street maintenance were among the departments to present their budgets. Compared to the library’s budget, these were minuscule. By and large, these budget requests were reasonable and well-justified. These departments’ budget amounts were curiously round numbers, and, as in almost everything, the city council asked no questions about the amounts before thanking the presenters.
For those of you who find any of these details disturbing, or who wish to comment on the budget proposal for FY 2022, please join me, Ryeker Herndon, on Monday, August 23, 2021 at 6pm at City Hall for the public hearing to voice your concerns (203 Main Ave. E, Twin Falls, ID 83301). If you aren’t sure how to voice your concerns, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.