Board Faults Capital Plan
The first thing the board did was to discard Peck’s color-coded document on the six-year plan for major expenditures such as purchase of heavy equipment, road repairs and building improvements. But his spread-sheet on a “functional” version of the capital budget drew sharp criticism for being indecipherable and the board asked him to come back with a document that showed proposed expenditures by department and division to accompany the one based on categories of needs.
Board chairman Ken Robertson began the discussion by asking for figures on the 2008 capital budget. The board was working on figures for a six-year span starting with the 2009 fiscal year that began July 1. But Public Works & Urban Development Director Jennifer Wenson Maier said nothing was expended in 2008.
Councilman William Reid then called the document before the board “sort of mixed up” and most of the ensuing discussion was on how the plan needed to be explained in a more intelligible way.
“This document we have now is useless,” board member Gordon Fuller said.
Robertson said the board had been promised to have the plan in January. At present, the City Council is finalizing talks on the FY 2009 operating budget with the goal of budget passage by December, and the capital budget is supposed to accompany the operating budget.
Peck only was hired in April and came from Ohio, where had had his own management firm. He is the fifth person in charge of the city’s largest department, Administration, Finance, Health and Social Services, since January 2006. He came in pledging a new way of budgeting based on the services most desired by taxpayers, but his presentations to the City Council have been rife with glitches, most notably a $1.7 million typo that required major adjustments in the operating budget.
Among the top priorities in the capital budget are road repairs that were deferred during the present administration, leaving the city in only the second year of a multi-year plan that was launched in 2005. Fire Chief Cecil Allen told the council the city needs a new $7 million firehouse on South Avenue, as modern equipment is too heavy for the floor of the historic building next to the Netherwood train station. But the details on expenses took a back seat to the board’s dismay over Peck’s presentation Thursday.
“I just think this is a poor document presented to us with a lot of areas where we can’t say it’s a good document,” Reid told Peck, calling the plan “high school stuff.”
At one point, Police Captain Siddeeq El-Amin was called on to speak about capital expenses in the police division, but he said he had not seen the document until it was handed to him at the meeting.
The board’s role with the capital improvement plan is to review it for recommendation to the City Council. Peck answered a number of questions the board submitted at a previous session, but the meeting concluded with the board looking forward to receiving a more concrete explanation of proposed capital projects.
“I hope the second budget we get is not as confusing as this one,” Reid said.