Alderman Ron Barone said he would prefer that department heads wait to “grandstand” until after the council has finished reviewing the 2015-2016 budget. However, at a Budget Workshop meeting Thursday night, the council agreed to schedule the various departments for review over the course of the next few weeks and notify department heads so that they can attend. According to Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler, who will chair the budget meetings, department heads will be allowed to give their presentations and respond to questions from council members.
At the beginning of the meeting, Barone said, “I think what we need to do is get into this thing fully, and then let them grandstand later. Because if you bring them in during the budget, they’re only going to say ‘well I need this, I need that’. Well listen, what I want to do is tell them what they need. And then let them come back in and try to resell it.”
Alderman Ed Russo disagreed with Barone, and said that department heads should be able to make a case for their requested budgets.
Later in the meeting Barone said,“What if we were cutting departments out? What if we cut a department out? It’s a possibility – anything’s possible. That’s why I say, I thought we should have taken the time to really go through this budget ourselves all the way through, but this is fine, we can go either way.”
The council agreed to a tentative schedule as follows:
Saturday, April 11, 9 am – Controller, Mayor, Transportation, Employee Relations
Wednesday, April 15, 5:30pm – Police Department
Thursday, April 16, 5:30pm – Fire Department
Monday, April 20, 5:30pm – Recreation Department, Department of Public Works
Tuesday, April 21, 5:30pm – Water and Sewer Departments
Thursday April 30, 5:30pm – Golf Course, Sanitation Department, Assessor, Corporation Counsel
Monday, May 4, 5:30pm – Community and Economic Development, Civil Service, Engineering Department, Codes Department
Council members also discussed the issue of Mayor Ann Thane’s proposal to have the fire department take on the role of the city’s primary ambulance service. Thane has included a projected $660,000 in revenue for the service in her proposed budget. Fire Chief Michael Whitty plans to present details of the proposed plan at a committee meeting next Tuesday.
“He’s come this far, let him put out his figures and see what he’s got to say,” said Russo.
Barone stuck to his position that the issue should go to a referendum. “I think that’s the fairest way,” said Barone.
“I don’t disagree, the referendum – let the people decide.” said Hatzenbuhler.
Barone challenged Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis’ previously stated opinion which was that the restriction in the city’s charter prohibiting an ambulance service could be removed without a referendum.
“We are changing something, we’re taking two department heads, which is the chief of the fire department and the mayor, and enhancing the positions because you are putting another division underneath them. So you are giving them more duties,” said Barone. “You can have all the meetings you want with them, my mind is set.”
“Even if we put it up for a referendum, I still think the taxpayers need to know what they’re looking at. Is $600,000 a realistic figure?” said Russo. “At least hear the chief out.”