It’s hard to pay your bills when you don’t know what your expenses are.

That’s the situation in which Killeen City Council members find themselves as interim City Manager Ann Farris continues to give presentations on options for potential revenue sources for the upcoming fiscal year.

Certainly, that’s half the equation.

But with time running short to adopt a municipal budget and tax rate, council members still haven’t been given a list of city expenditures — though many have asked for it.

In addition, several council members have asked for an updated fund balance, but have yet to receive an answer.

As a result, the council still has no clear idea how the city’s funds are obligated, or how much money they currently have to work with — more than two weeks after Farris informed the council they would need to find $8 million to make ends meet in the upcoming budget.

One frustrated council member last week told the Herald that Farris’ handling of the process looks like “a stall.”

Indeed, Farris’ lack of responsiveness to council members’ requests for budget information suggests either departmental disorganization or an unwillingness to cooperate.

On Tuesday, Farris told council members that they would receive a presentation on the city’s enterprise funds at this week’s meeting — which is essential to understanding the overall budget, especially since several questions have been raised about transfers involving those funds.

Farris also advised council members it would be another four to five weeks before they would be in a position to make final recommendations on balancing the budget.

At the current rate, the council wouldn’t even begin serious discussions about revenue and expenditure options until mid- to late August.

Obviously, the council has a lot to digest, and it’s imperative that members have all the information necessary before raising taxes and fees or considering cuts in staffing, programs and services.

But Farris’ piecemeal approach to tackling the budget is having the effect of prolonging the process and forcing council members to make difficult decisions in a condensed time frame.

If the council decides a tax increase above the 8 percent rollback rate is to be part of the budget solution, the city has only until Aug. 22 to get it placed on the November ballot. That’s only five weeks away. Further, a public hearing on the budget is set for Aug. 23, if the council calls for a tax increase.

A regular public hearing is planned for Sept. 6, with the council adopting both the tax rate and budget by Sept. 13. The council can’t afford to be making last-minute adjustments as the adoption date looms.

In addition to Farris’ time-consuming approach to presenting budget options, the council’s agenda has been cluttered with too many unrelated discussion items of late — eating up valuable time that should be spent on sorting out the city’s troubled finances.

Last week, council members slogged through two meetings totaling  six hours — featuring a consultant’s presentation on potential impact fees — and more long sessions are likely in store if Farris’ detailed tutorials are part of the mix.

This week, the council is facing a 21-item agenda, after which members are scheduled to receive Farris’ proposed budget plan — a full two weeks after the city’s budget calendar called for it to be presented.

As Farris is former longtime educator, it’s laudable that she would want council members to understand all aspects of the budget process before they make any consequential decisions.

But Killeen City Hall is not a high school or college classroom.

Farris should let the council digest the proposed budget, quickly offer options and recommendations — and then schedule workshops to iron out the final budget plan.

Stringing this process out any longer is something that neither the council nor the city’s taxpayers can afford.

Contact Dave Miller at dmiller@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7543

(4) comments

Alvin
Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.
In one simple statement, 'Quit Stalling'.
I agree with both @Eliza and @realist10: 'Clear the smoke from the council chambers and either propose a 2016/2017 budget or admit you are in over your head'. That's my opinion anyways.
You are telling this council that it is to be another four to five weeks before they would be in a position to make final recommendations on balancing the budget and wouldn’t even begin serious discussions about revenue and expenditure options until mid- to late August.
Question: 'Would your staff be in a position to present a detailed and documented budget which would cover all departments with staffing, organization and detailed budget allowances to include all necessary finding and expenditures of each department?'
It will be necessary to present the prepared copies of all expenditures, fund balance, and the detailed proposed budget for 2016/2017 in order for this council 'to make any determination as to 'where this city is now, and where it wants to be in July, 2017'. Without that, this city is whistling Dixie.
All of this to run concurrently with the package for 'selecting a now city manager'.
On of the 3% who voted.

Bear3

The forensic audit and outside investigation by FBI or Texas Rangers is overdue!

Farris, Morrison, Stu, Wallace - her CPA license should be questioned, Baldwin, Davis - her legal license should be questioned, Briggs - her legal license should be questioned, Shine and all other administrators that have been or are currently involved and allowed to get away with the illegal actions circumventing laws and misappropriating funds and or misapplying funds because they do not care about all of our tax payer funds is an injustice!

Police department / Chief and Legal department modifying data and or deleting files or covering for those that do not deserve it like Cosper for his misconduct are not just alleged inappropriate practices by these officials but wrong !!

Enough is enough!

Realist10

@Eliza and all those who are concerned with the city financial position, I agree.
Everything presented so far just seems like a stall tactic and smoking mirrors because of Farris' inability to function as an Assistant City Manager over Internal Services (Finance) much less rolling out the Budget in the Interim City Management mode.

Eliza

After reading this article---More and more---
I want to think along the term of the old saying
' Who took the money ,and ran'

Who has been overseeing this chaos called the Tax Payers Money ??? Who has been getting paid for not knowing as another old saying ,'their arse from a hole in the ground' evidently about citizens money.
Who was allowing the group at city hall to receive a pay check and doing such a Sloppy Job' using other peoples money...That they now say WE NEED 8 Million Dollars !!!!

This mess has been allowed to go on for a long time . Probably thinking it would never be found out,
Luckily Councilman Johnson and Young are willing to ask questions and received enough votes or was appointed to council to come on board as a voice for the people.

It hasn't always been easy to get answers from the employees of the people of Killeen,
But ,when the tax payers have paid their money in good faith,
They want questions asked and answered,
And No ,No raise is deserved at this time, until, Missing Money is found OR where it went and possibly with who has knowledge of its whereabouts..

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