(Originally posted on GrantCOnnected.net’s website on September 16, 2015)
Weeks of building tension over the 2016 Marion city budget climaxed at the Sept. 16 Common Council Meeting when the council members accidentally dismissed the budget.
While trying to table the budget discussion to a third reading, the council members misunderstood the procedure and actually turned down the new budget. This means the city will have to resort back to the 2015 budget, meaning no new salaries or insurance increases for city workers.
Amid of heated arguments between council members and the public, Mayor Wayne Seybold even called Councilman Fred Troxell an “idiot” several times for explaining his dislike of the new budget.
Council President Joselyn Whitticker silenced the crowd several times as members of the public and the council started insulting each other or criticizing the others’ views.
“We will not be disrespectful. … It’s not going to be tolerated,” Whitticker said when a citizen called Councilman Paul Thompson a “dummy.”
In response to some pointed comments by Thompson, Whitticker said, “We will not sling mud at each other.”
Whether the council can legally go back and reconsider the 2016 budget is unclear.
A key benefit of the 2016 budget was the possibility of raising salaries for city employees by 3 to 5 percent.
Also, city budget documents said the state would give Marion a .026 percent increase from last year’s budget, giving the city $400,000. Now that the budget is dismissed, the city lost the opportunity.
Thompson said he did not get to express his opinion on the budget before it was voted down.
“I’m going to stand up for my rights. I feel like tonight was a bad deal,” Thompson said to Whitticker. “I wanted to pass this budget, and I wanted to make a motion, and I couldn’t even get your attention when you sat over there and played games with [Council members Deborah Cain and Henry Smith].”
City council members Troxell and Brad Luzadder agreed that the employees deserved the raise, while Cain was hesitant. She said the budget needs to be not only what is good for the employees, but also for the citizens.
Patrol Sergeant Shawn Sizemore and Jordan Lamb, president of the 676 fire station, said employees need to be rewarded for their hard work. Members of the police station, fire station and street department approached the microphone and explained how a raise would be more valuable than an increase in insurance.
“To the best of my knowledge, 90 percent of [the firefighters] would rather take the money,” Lamb said, when asked about wanting a raise or an increase in their insurance. “It would benefit them.”
Accountant Bill Heller, however, said increasing the insurance would be more beneficial. If employees received an additional $1,000 for insurance and no raise, they would ultimately save money, he said.
City employees and citizens stepped up to the microphone and shared their opinion on the budget in the two-and-a-half-hour-long meeting. The council took a five minute recess and reconvened to make a decision. After Cain and Smith gave their amendments, the council voted and “killed the budget,” according to Luzadder.