Friday, January 22, 2021

Mattawa City Council discusses year-end budget changes

Staff Writer | January 13, 2021 1:00 AM

MATTAWA — During a special virtual council meeting Monday, the Mattawa City Council discussed a policy, brought by city attorney Katherine Kennison, that would take the ending fund balances for each department at the end of each fiscal year and put them back into the general fund for reallocation.

Kennison said with the city’s current policy, it is possible for department heads to use carryover funds as a type of savings fund to use for purchases during the following year.

“It is up to council if they need that (money) for other funds or other departments,” Kennison said.

Council member Brian Berghout expressed concern the policy could encourage department heads to spend through their budgets.

“Yes, it could encourage that,” Kennison said. “The council established each department’s budgets. Council has the opportunity throughout the budget year to look at how the department is spending budgeted funds and how to spend them, if it looks like they are starting to have a situation like that. The bottom line is that nothing is guaranteed. Council has the legislative discretion to change budgetary items. It is up to council how they want to establish the budget making authority.”

The proposed policy was sent to the budget subcommittee for further analysis.

The council also asked the CARES Act subcommittee to make recommendations on $18,000 of CARES Act funds the city has not used. Mayor Maggie Celaya said the amount of time the city has to use the remaining balance has been extended to Dec. 31, 2021.

During the meeting, the council discussed using the money for sick leave for staff members with COVID-19 health issues.

“We need to take care of our staff wherever we can,” said council member Tony Acosta. “If we set it aside, we have a little extra support for our staff.”

If council uses the money for other items, staff will be required to use their sick leave and vacation time for COVID-19 health issues.

As part of the discussion, council member Brian Berghout was added to the CARES Act subcommittee, while Silvia Barajas, of the budget subcommittee, and Sun Hwang, of the CARES Act subcommittee, traded places on committees. Hwang requested to be moved to the budget subcommittee because he “always wants to learn more about the budget.”