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Walsenburg against itself in pursuit of dollars

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- A rift between the Mayor of Walsenburg, some City Council members and the city’s staff became apparent during the regular meeting on Tuesday, July 19. It began with a discussion centering around a $2.19 million dollar budgetary shortfall the city is looking at.
The shortfall is being carried as a negative in the Water Park Enterprise fund rather then being accounted for in the general fund. Putting the $2.19 million as a negative in the general fund would show a negative $1 million as a balance in the fund, effectively shutting down the city’s ability to carry on day-to-day business.
An exchange between the mayor and city staff that threatened to become heated started as finance committee chair Craig Lessar began giving the committee’s report to the city council. Lessar asked about the shortfall addressing the question to the city’s staff.
After approaching the council, the city’s finance director, Dave Johnston said, “Depending on how you shake it out, we need to replenish between one and two million dollars to our cash balance through some situation and we were looking for guidance from the finance committee.”
The mayor then came in saying he had thought a lot about the situation after Monday’s finance committee meeting. “Do you remember a meeting…back in December? A meeting I had called? And what was the discussion then?”
“It was along the same line,” Johnston said.
The mayor wanted to know why, if Johnston found it not plausible to find the needed funds to fill the budget gap in December, why is it plausible now?
Johnston replied that his inexperience with the city’s financial and budgetary culture was in part why he gave the answer he did last December.
“If we would have listened…we would have been brainstorming how to resolve the issue…,” Mayor Quintana said. “I think it was a decision by not only yourself but also the administration.”
Interim City Administrator Don Saling commented. “Unless I misunderstood…what that meeting really dealt with was the allocation of the funds versus those preparation documents that were done by the treasurer (Jacque Sykes) and those that were done by the auditor. And how they impacted or created the 2011 budget. And it was our recommendation…that the budget and the fund balances for those accounts be based on the auditors and not on the other records,” “And it had nothing to do with the $2 million dollars. We’re still trying to figure where the $2 point some million dollars is.
“Is this an issue because we overspent the Martin valve project by $600,000, is that part of it? Is it the wastewater treatment plant that was overspent by a million dollars based on the budget? We’re still trying to get to that figure…I know we’ve still got $3 point some million dollars to pay the bills,” Saling said.
Then Johnston responded to a question from council member Sylvana Lind. She asked if the current audit for the year 2010 was finished.
“No,” Johnston replied. “This situation was a result of the 2009 audit. The Water Park enterprise was moved from the general fund into an enterprise fund. The entry that was made at that point moved the $2 million Wild Waters asset into the enterprise. It didn’t go into any of the history of how that was paid for. There was an offsetting entry made in cash balance which was a negative cash balance which balanced out with what cash should be on hand.”