Mt. Sterling council at odds over financial recovery plan and budget

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(Posted Oct. 13, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Mount Sterling council members are at odds over the village’s proposed financial recovery plan and budget for 2022.

As the village continues to work through fiscal emergency status, council must submit its annual recovery plan and budget to the state oversight board for review. The deadline this year is Oct. 20.

Following several months of committee meetings, this year’s proposed plan and budget was introduced at council’s regular meeting on Oct. 11 as emergency legislation. The emergency clause would allow council to waive the three-reading rule and instead vote on the measure immediately.

After the legislation was introduced, council member Andy Drake, chair of the finance committee, proposed that the emergency clause be removed and that, instead, the legislation receive three readings over three separate meetings before a vote is taken. Those meetings would need to be special meetings in order to meet the Oct. 20 deadline.

Council member Melanie Fritz said she thought the committee was going to hold another work session before the legislation came to council. One of the sticking points is whether the village should reinstate the village administrator position. She and council member Becky Martin favor reinstating the position. Both want more discussion on that matter and other facets of the budget related to the general fund.

At a recent committee meeting about EPA issues, Drake requested a five-minute extension of the meeting to discuss budget issues. When that time ran out, Martin requested another extension of the meeting; that request was voted down.

“The reason you wanted to extend the meeting was because you wanted to talk about the village administrator (position), and I don’t like the idea, so I didn’t want to extend the meeting,” said Jay Pettey, council president pro tem, about his “no” vote on the second extension request.

Drake said the same goals of a work session or another committee meeting could be met in council meetings. Like work sessions, council meetings allow for discussion and are open to the public, he added.

“I’m not sure that’s how it should work,” Fritz said.

Drake said that council members have talked about financial forecasting and budgeting through months of meetings. He said there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for shifting the budget.

“I’m kind of at the end of the rope,” he said. “We’re at a place where we have to deal with this.”

Council voted 4-2 to remove the emergency clause from the legislation and voted 4-2 on the legislation’s first reading. Fritz and Martin cast the dissenting votes.

Council then discussed setting a date and time for a special council meeting to hold the second reading on the recovery plan and budget legislation. That second meeting was set for Oct. 13 at 4 p.m. The third meeting date was yet to be determined as of the Madison Messenger’s press time. It will be posted to the village’s website, www.mtsterling.org.

“We’re heading in the right direction. I think we need to be respectful and try to get that last piece worked out. Whether it ends up in the budget or not, you know, that’s to be decided by all of you,” said Mayor Marci Darlington to the council members.

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