In another heated night for the Killeen City Council, a May 5 election for two City Charter amendments was called by a narrow 4-3 margin after council members sparred over losing oversight of certain financial transfers.
At issue was the first proposed amendment, which would end formal council approval of interdepartmental and intradepartmental transfers in the municipal budget. Section 73 of the charter stipulates the council has final approval of all financial transfers — down to line-item appropriations.
The new amendment would maintain the council’s oversight of interfund transfers — such as the moving of money between the city’s solid waste fund and general fund. However, the city manager would have final oversight of transfers between departments within a fund — for example, between the fire and police departments — and the city’s finance director would have final oversight of intradepartmental transfers, specifically line-item appropriations.
Councilman Gregory Johnson, who said he would advocate against the measure at the ballot box if it passed the council vote, said the amendment would remove checks and balances on city manager authority.
“I’m totally concerned about checks and balances,” Johnson said. “That’s different from micromanagement. Things like this got my city into the challenges it is in now.”
Killeen City Manager Ron Olson told the council the move was not an attempt to close members out of the budget process. Olson said last week the move would allow him to delegate budget management to department heads, giving them more oversight and ownership of their departments.
“What this proposal would do is identify the level at which the council controls the budget,” Olson said. “This move, I believe, would make department heads more accountable to the bottom line.”
Olson noted the current charter language did not prevent the mismanagement of funds that marred the city from 2013 to 2016 — despite the council’s formal oversight of transfers. The current Section 71 language was adopted by voter approval in 2013.
“The system we have right now apparently didn’t work that well,” Olson said. “The system we have right now won’t solve our problems moving ahead.”
Councilman Juan Rivera said even with the amendment, the council would still have effective oversight of transfers, as the council receives quarterly briefings on the budget, and said the council is not responsible for micromanaging the budget after it is approved.
“Once the city manager gets that budget, it belongs to him,” Rivera said. “We hired a city manager to run our city, and it’s up to us to make sure it runs the right way.”
The proposed second amendment, also approved, would stipulate capital improvements be “carried over” multiple fiscal years until completion. The current charter language requires capital improvement appropriations to lapse after every fiscal year and then be re-budgeted the next fiscal year.
Council members Rivera, Debbie Nash-King and Jonathan Okray voted in support of calling the election with Mayor Jose Segarra breaking the tie. Council members Johnson, Steve Harris and Shirley Fleming voted against.
Mayor pro tem Jim Kilpatrick was not in attendance.