As the discussion continued on how council members should spend leftover travel budgets, Galt Councilman Darryl Clare suggested bringing back discretionary accounts at the Tuesday night meeting.
"The reason we had discretionary funds was for these kind of things. … Now, kind of what we are doing is turning travel funds into discretionary funds for the causes we believe in," he said.
There is $17,000 in the budget for council travel, and the unofficial breakdown is $3,000 per council member and $5,000 for the mayor.
Councilmen Donald Haines and Andrew Meredith have proposed using $2,400 of their remaining funds to allow military families to send packages overseas to deployed troops. Councilwoman Barbara Payne wants to use her remaining $2,900 to purchase a sign to go in Galt Community Park to let people on the east side know about city activities.
While he supports both these projects, Clare said he does not support council members feeling the need to rush to spend the travel budgets before the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30.
"If there is unused travel expenses, then it should go back to the General Fund. … Then, we should say we have a new priority that warrants the city's money," Clare said.
Clare would prefer to budget for these expenses so council members could decide how they wanted to use the funds throughout the year. One solution would be to replace the travel funds with discretionary funds, so council members can decide if they want to use it for travel or to support other causes or projects, he said.
In other actionAt Tuesday's meeting, the Galt City Council also:
- Gave the OK for Councilman Andrew Meredith to work with staff
to see how easy it would be to post financial information on the
city's Web site.
He wants to post expenditures, revenues and employee salaries on a weekly basis. He also would like to post information about the vendors the city pays for various services and supplies.
He said the goal is to allow the public to review finances without having to request public records.
- Approved spending $20 to purchase Galtgov.com in case Galt wants to transfer the city's site in the future.
- Decided against sending a letter in support of Assembly Bill
715, which would allow cities to stop publishing ordinances in the
newspaper. Instead, cities would have to post it online and send a
copy to anyone who requests it.
City Clerk Liz Aguire said the city usually spends about $3,000 to $5,000 on advertising, which includes publishing the ordinances.
Councilman Darryl Clare said he was uncomfortable sending a letter because it is assuming everyone has the electronic skills and equipment to see the ordinances online.
"For our community, I'd rather we still publish some information, which is why it would be odd to support this," Clare said.
Councilwoman Barbara Payne agreed but said in the future it might be possible.
"A lot of people are not comfortable going to a Web site. But one day computers might be a natural appliance in every home."
- Decided to move forward with creating a fact-finding task force
on how the city can make it harder for prisoners who are released
early to move to Galt. Meredith said he is concerned about Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to release non-violent offenders.
Mayor Randy Shelton also agreed the city should discuss the idea. When he was previously on the council from 2002 to 2006, he used his discretionary account to support the Safe Routes to School program and the Community Service Officer Program, which is the police department's volunteer program. He also used the funds to install news street signs and buy equipment for the DUI trailer.
As long as council members receive no more than what is allocated in the travel budget now, Haines said he would consider the idea of a discretionary fund.
Also at the meeting, Meredith said families can start bringing in packages for overseas troops to the City Clerk's office. Packages can be sent until June 30, and then the rest of the money will go back into the General Fund.
Having just heard from her son, Christopher, a half hour before the meeting, Shiree Hieb said she knows the importance of sending packages to overseas troops.
"Watching my son leave for the second time for Iraq, watching him get on the bus, knowing I won't see him for 18 months - it killed me," she said.
While she was able to send four boxes to her son, she said she knows other military families in Galt could use the help.
Councilwoman Barbara Payne said she is supportive of sending packages to Iraq and knows how important it has been for her grandson to receive packages from home.
She said she previously questioned using city funds because she knows there are nonprofit organizations and churches who would also be willing to send the packages.
She suggested the sign idea because it is part of the city's Shop Local campaign.
"I was going to just throw it back into the General Fund. Then I thought this would be a good investment in our economic development," Payne said.
Payne said she wants to use her travel expenses to pay for the sign now because there are many events coming up that she would like residents to know about.
"When we used to go by the movies, we'd look at the marquee to see what is showing," she said. "Eventually, people would do that. They'd get trained to look at the sign to see what is going on in Galt."
She said the sign would be restricted to city events because there are legal issues with including nonprofits or churches.
The council will consider different sign options and whether to bring back discretionary accounts at a June 8 special meeting on the city's budget.