Geneva council OKs $83.6 million budget amid queries
Mayor’s election foe asks about recent changes
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The Geneva City Council adopted a new budget Monday night despite questions raised about it by former mayoral candidate Bob McQuillan.
During a public hearing on the budget, he asked aldermen to postpone a vote, asked if they thought the budget was balanced, and had questions about some of its figures.
One of his major points was that the budget voted on Monday was different from that which had been posted on the city website several weeks ago. When told a corrected version had been posted a week later, McQuillan asked whether taxpayers had been told there was a change, especially via email. McQuillan is co-founder of the Geneva TaxFACTS government-watching group.
"Information is updated regularly on the website," Mayor Kevin Burns said. If the city sent out an email every time there was a change, "people would be flooded with emails," he said.
The budget calls for spending $83.69 million and taking in $79.16 million from May 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014.
McQuillan asked for explanations for increases in spending on workers' compensation claims, printing, and water and sewage, citing specific dollar amounts; about where revenues from red-light traffic violations show up; about an interfund transfer of motor fuel tax money; and about an increase in overtime pay in the police budget.
"I think it is unfair to expect someone to know these off the top of our heads," City Administrator Mary McKittrick said. "Had we had the questions ahead of time, we would have gotten" McQuillan the answers, she said.
McQuillan said he had been busy the last few weeks. "The public hearing is the time and place for the public to ask questions of the budget. That's why it is called a public hearing," McQuillan said.
Part of the overtime pay increase was due to an accounting change, not a spending increase, Assistant City Administrator Stefanie Dawkins said. Police Chief Steve Mexin explained some of it was due to having officers working a lot of overtime in the last fiscal year — and continuing to do so indefinitely — to fill in for an officer on medical leave. Unionized officers will also get a 3 percent pay increase, per their contract.
McQuillan thanked the chief and said that was an example of the type of information he was seeking.
The discussion grew a little heated, with Burns telling McQuillan to "take a breath, Bob." Alderman Craig Maladra said McQuillan had raised "a lot of good questions," but that the council has also been asking questions of the staff throughout the budget process.
"We've been through it and through it and been through it," Maladra said.
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