In 10 days, the Killeen City Council will hold its first planning workshop for the fiscal 2013-2014 budget, and this year, it will begin without a finance director.
Barbara Gonzales was fired Dec. 14 after two months of paid administrative leave pending an internal city investigation.
The city has not released details of the investigation, despite the Herald’s request for the information through the Texas Public Information Act, Texas Government Code Chapter 552.
Within a week of her termination, Gonzales and another city employee — who also was fired — appealed their terminations to the Personnel Hearing Board, which consists of five residents who are not related to any city employee.
The city will not advertise the finance director position until after Gonzales’ personnel hearing, which so far has not been scheduled, Killeen City Manager Glenn Morrison said Friday.
Morrison said the almost two-month delay for a resolution of the matter is waiting on “coordinating calendars” and that the city has not entertained a settlement with the former employees.
The budget will be adopted in September even if the position remains unfilled, he said.
“We are prepared to move forward with the budget process if we have to,” Morrison said. “We will ensure that it is developed and delivered with the council’s priorities and the citizens’ input.”
The city normally adopts the budget in the second week of September, after several months of development by city staff and council members. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Assistant finance director Martie Simpson has filled in as interim finance director since Oct. 5, when Gonzales was put on leave.
Simpson has been with the finance department 15 years — five as assistant finance director — and is a certified public accountant.
“There will be some dual responsibilities that Mrs. Simpson will be taking over,” Morrison said. “I don’t see much disruption at all.”
Mayor Dan Corbin also expressed his confidence in the city financial staff and its ability to put out a budget on time.
“There’s several really competent people in the finance department who are all working hard to pick up the slack,” Corbin said. “I could see us formulating and adopting a budget without the new hire being on board.”
However, operating a finance department without a full staff can’t last forever, Corbin said.
“You have to look at how long you can run without letting your employees take vacations, how much overtime you are giving to the current employees before you exhaust them,” the mayor said.
“In the short run, people can put up with more work than they can in the long run.”
Corbin said he would stand behind the city manager’s choice for a new finance director.
“We need to get a finance director as soon as possible, but I think we need to be diligent in our search,” Corbin said. “I am sure that Mr. Morrison is doing that.”
As part of the upcoming charter election, the council proposed an amendment to the city charter (Proposition 20) that would require future finance directors to be certified public accountants. Gonzales was not a CPA.
Council members also discussed leaving the CPA requirement up to the city manager to place in the job description.
On Tuesday, the council will vote on the final charter ballot, which may include Proposition 20. All changes to the city charter must be approved by voters.
During the mayor’s State of the City address in January, he mentioned an unexpected surplus of funds in the city’s general fund for fiscal 2012.
The surplus was a result of some cost-cutting measures and fiscal conservancy taken late in fiscal 2011, Corbin said.
“It’s kind of like having more money in your bank account than you expected,” he said.
Although the city always has needs for more funding, such as more police officers and other quality-of-life issues, the proposed $42.7 billion sequestration cuts to the U.S. military is reason for caution in future spending, Corbin said.
“It’s a fact that we have more money, what’s unclear is what we are going to do about that,” Corbin said.
“I am not sure we want to obligate future budgets with ongoing budget obligations.”
The city is just beginning to face two such fiscal obligations, the mid-year 2 percent city employee raises and the addition of 12 police officers, who will be hired in June.
The mayor suggested investing in one-time expenditures, such as acquiring a city homeless shelter.
“The council will mull some things over and come up with some ideas,” Corbin said. “We may also decide, because of the uncertainties of the future, to just leave a larger fund balance there.”