The Twin Falls city council’s discretionary fund for the 2021-2022 budget year occupied the bulk of Monday’s meeting. The final meeting of the eight-week series of budget reviews was presented once again by City Manager Travis Rothweiler, and he handed the mic over to city staff to present detailed information about sidewalk projects to the council.
As a refresher: the Twin Falls City Council is granted roughly $700,000 (with a $150,000 additional contingency amount) every budget year to spend as they direct. The council can spend this money on any of the various departmental needs in the city’s hierarchy, and there are always requests coming from all sectors of the Twin Falls government for more money. Over the past several weeks, Mr. Rothweiler has presented several options for the council including sidewalk improvements, city street department equipment, police department equipment, and parks projects, among others.
The meeting was dominated by a presentation of sidewalk improvement projects around Twin Falls. Various council members (as well as Mr. Rothwieler) brought up the fact that there were other projects to consider, but the majority of the council seemed determined to spend their entire discretionary budget on these sidewalk projects. Throughout the presentation by city staff, the idea that costs often balloon on government projects was brought up and summarily accepted as absolute truth by the council, who raised no questions or objections to the idea that “things just cost money.”
You can find a few of the projects and related costs in the table below. The final price of the projects that the council selected totals more than the allotted $770,000. The council made the decision to exceed their allotted budget of $770,000, taking advantage of a contingency amount which can technically be used justifiably for such overages, but which is intended to be used for unexpected cost increases such as inflation or unexpected costs.
|Elizabeth Blvd. (design)||$94,800||1200||$79|
|Eastland Dr. North||$39,000||275||$140.29|
Vice Mayor Ruth Pierce, Councilman Shawn Barigar, and Mayor Suzanne Hawkins all asked the city manager if it was OK to overspend the budget. Mr. Rothweiler reluctantly agreed that it was not against any statutes or rules to overspend the allotted amount. Councilman Craig Hawkins commented that he didn’t feel he’d been on the council long enough to have any say in how they spend the money of the people of Twin Falls, and commented that it was a tough decision. Rather than abstain on the vote, Councilman Hawkins voted yes.
If any of the above mentioned budgetary decisions disturbs you, read the last few articles we wrote on the 2021-2022 budget or, better yet, join me at the city council meetings and make your voice heard. They happen every Monday at 5:00pm at City Hall, 503 Main Avenue South, Twin Falls.