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Spending worries council
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Rincon City Council members are questioning just how much money the city is spending.

Council members tabled action on buying a new software package for the city’s computers. City finance director Wesley Corbitt recommended buying service from emGovPower for approximately $74,000, replacing the city’s current operating software. The city has had problems with its current provider and Corbitt and other city staff said there were problems with the city’s e-mail in the past.

The new software system also would allow the city’s staff to process information much more efficiently, and Corbitt said it would improve the city’s accounting

But since the request wasn’t in the budget, Corbitt said the money for the contract would have to come from the city’s fund balance. The city has $3 million in undesignated funds.

“Where is that money going to come from?” questioned council member Reese Browher. “We continue to spend, like there’s no tomorrow. I’m worried we’re heading down a slippery slope. It seems like we rubber-stamp everything.”

City manager Michael Phillips said city department heads are not being asked to cut their budgets now. Council member Paul Wendelken warned that the city’s fund balance of $854,000 could be gone in three years and was concerned about what that could usher in.

“We’ll have property taxes in the city of Rincon,” he said, “and I’m dead set against property taxes.”

Wendelken also said the local option and special purpose local option sales taxes are running about 30 percent off their projections.

“I’m afraid this recession is going to be here a while,” he said. “We need to be aware of that going into next year. We’re not increasing the fund balance.”

Corbitt said the city will not have a shortfall in revenues for the fiscal year and the city had $109,000 more in revenues over expenditures in 2009.

Council member Ann Daniel, who offered a motion to approve the contract that died for lack of a second, said the city’s employees have to be given the necessary tools to do their jobs more efficiently.

“The tools they have now create a labor-intensive environment,” she said. “A computer system will catch so much more. I think you have to give someone the right tools.”

Browher said council members were told the city’s current operating system “was the best thing since sliced bread” when the city entered into a contract with Harris in 2006.

“It was state of the art. And so was the one before it,” added Wendelken.

Browher also said he was skeptical the proposed system would catch every error made in the city’s transactions.

“I agree people need the tools to do their jobs,” he said. “But sometimes you have to work with the tools you have.

“Tonight is a watershed night for me,” Browher added. “At some point, we have to make a stand and not rubber-stamp.”

City clerk Wanda Hendrix said Harris was supposed to put in a system that would allow residents to pay their water bills online.

“It never got implemented,”she said.

Corbitt said the new system also would allow the city to track its transactions and the city would lose money in the future if it continues with its current operating system. He also said the city’s reconciliation of its billings “is a real issue right now.”

“It’s deplorable we can’t have communication across the city,” council member Levi Scott said of the Harris system. “Like Reese, I hate to spend money right now. But Harris needs to go.”

But Scott also offered a caution that further spending could put the city in treacherous financial position. Scott pointed out other governments have laid off employees.

“If we’re not careful, that’s where we’re headed,” he said.

Mayor Ken Lee said he would like to see each spending item properly budgeted but acknowledged that wasn’t always realistic.

“There are going to be situations and times where we need to spend money that’s not budgeted,” he said.