City Council is considering creating a new department. What would it do?
If a resident of Craig wanted to dive into how the city is spending its money on economic development, that resident wouldn’t get very far. A new city ordinance creating a department could change that.
If passed, this ordinance would create the Department of Economic Development, which — essentially — would do what the economic development committee does right now, including seeking and administering grants, implementing community-wide redevelopment programs and economic and urban planning initiatives.
Right now, any money spent on economic development flows through the city council, meaning it falls into their departmental budget. Any costs on salaries to pay people who work on economic development are filed under administration. One concern voiced at the council’s meeting on Tuesday was that this has the potential to make the council budget look like a “slush fund,” or in excess of what it really needs.
“It looks like the council has three quarters of a million dollars that council’s just spending because you don’t know what exactly,” Councilman Ryan Hess said. “You just look at our budget. It just looks like the Council spending three quarters of a million dollars. Is that council wages? Well, we all know that the council doesn’t get paid that much. So what are the expenditures for?”
When those expenses are broken down into a specific department, it would be possible to see specifics on what that department is spending money on, including personnel and operation costs. The first two years of the position that would run the department would be funded by grants.
“We have no way of tracking (economic development in Craig) historically, because that doesn’t exist in the budget line,” Hess said on Tuesday. “It just has, as you’ve seen it, been existing under city council — it’s just a line item under ours. Now, we can break it down into actually what we’re spending money on. So that everybody knows the $150,000 that’s under city council is now being spent under X, Y and Z, so it breaks it down more categorically.”
City manager Peter Brixius added that this would give added transparency, as, with the new department, the city can see what that money is being spent on — whether that money comes from grants or other avenues — and track any future development that comes out of the work of that department. The money is most likely going to be spent there anyway, so this potential department will now have a way of being seen on the city budget, Brixius said.
Some hesitations surrounding the creation of the department have to do with potential expansions of the Department of Economic Development in the future. That can technically happen to programs through economic development manager Shannon Scott right now; council can hire people to work under her just as they can hire people to work under anyone else who works for the city, Hess said. However, councilman Chris Nichols said it was not the intention of the council to expand the department or budget past its current size.
“If the concern is that we have to fund this forever, we don’t (have to). If we decide that we lose that position and we’re not going to keep that position, (then) we don’t fund that department,” Nichols said. “Every council will have that discussion (about growing departments), I’m sure (they will be) talking in budget workshops. At this point, we don’t see the need, but who knows down the road.”
Council will consider the ordinance creating the department again at a subsequent meeting.
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