John Mejia says this is the first time in his tenure as Gering Finance Director he has presented the city with a proposed budget that actually reduces overall spending from the previous year and basically has no increase in utility rates or user fees.
Mejia made the statement during the council’s public hearing Monday night on the proposed 2017-18 budget, which cuts overall spending from last year by 5.7% and has only a $1.25 monthly storm water fee increase due to an unfunded federal mandate in the rate structure.
Mayor Tony Kaufman says the budget is a fiscal decision by the council to”tighten its belt, do more with less and balance the city’s finances through deeper cuts and absorbing costs.” Kaufman praised the council and staff for their work in what he called “the most single important thing we do”, noting the council last year cut in half historical increases and this year went the extra step to a flat-line budget.
Former Gering school board member Mike Brunner was the only other person to speak during the public hearing, criticizing the council for its purchase of property on the east side of town for economic development purposes. Brunner, as he did earlier in a meeting this summer, said the private sector is better suited to develop the property and was critical of the price the city has paid for development land. He also said the council should be more transparent.
The council will consider formally approving the budget at a special meeting Thursday.
The council Monday night did pass on third and final reading an ordinance to annex the two properties purchased this summer for economic development that Brunner had been critical of.
The council also approved a new negotiated two year lease agreement with Brody and Stephanie Rask to operate the Monument Grill restaurant at the city’s golf course. The current agreement expires in October.