Lemhi County Citizen Journalism

Leslie Shumate's picture


A question of whether or not to institute an additional monthly Salmon City Council meeting solely to discuss city finances was decided at its November 15 meeting.

The impetus behind the suggestion is that some council members feel city finances are the most important aspect of the City Council job as well as being one of the most complex.

Councilman Jim Bockelman reintroduced the topic and in answer to an email of the Finance Team meeting minutes being enough, he said the only way to be fully informed about city finances is to attend the actual meetings. In his opinion it is impossible to put every detail discussed in the minutes because the business of understanding finances is a step by step process.

Soon to retire Councilman Rob Jackson totally agreed with Bockelman that finances are the most important part of the job and he said the new council members need to have the opportunity of all the financial information. Bockelman also said it is important to have financial input from the full council not just the Finance Team members.

Council President Jim Baker made a motion to add a separate financial meeting to the council’s monthly schedule and to vacate the Finance Team. His motion did not pass. Those voting for the motion were Baker, Bockelman and Jackson. Councilman Russ Chinske was uncomfortable with a vote which affects the two incoming council members and therefore voted ‘no.’ Councilmen Neal James and Ken Hill also cast ‘no’ votes leaving the issue in a tie. Mayor Leo Marshall voted ‘no’ thereby breaking the tie and squelching the extra monthly meeting. He said anyone with financial questions can take them to City Finance Director Amy Fealko at any time. 

Following the vote Fealko, upon request, explained the city’s Emergency Contingency Fund by detailing each entry on the General Fund balance sheet. She cited assets, accounts receivable, prepaid insurance payments, taxes receivable and the Sacajawea Center inventory. She then went on to payables in the form of outstanding bills and outstanding payroll items, deferred grant revenues and deferred tax revenues which all go together to equal the constantly fluctuating Contingency Fund Balance. 

Her detailed financial explanation was prompted by a Finance Team recommendation to rearrange some of the fund balances within the budget and possibly increase the percentage of funds kept in reserve. 

Several years ago an official Resolution was enacted to reserve at least 35 percent of the General Fund budget in an emergency reserve balance to be kept on hand. At present that amount is close to half a million dollars. Fealko said, “Personally I don’t think that’s a ton of money.” She said that equates to covering four months of city operational expenses. 

Bockelman said the Finance Team suggested the full council consider moving the reserve balance to another portion of the budget and raising the amount of percentage to be reserved.

Baker commented that the topic being discussed was an example of why it is important for councilmen to know the full financial picture including the year by year history of trends. 

The original Resolution to reserve funds will be further reviewed and the fund rearrangements suggested by the Finance Team will be further discussed.

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