We all like to know how the city and water district are going to spend our money.
We don’t want more tax dollars collected than are needed. And we certainly don’t want them wasted or over-spent.
Nor do we want water district fees any higher than necessary or for any of that money to go down the drain.
Looking at the budgets for fiscal year 2012-13 they seem pretty straight.
The Mesquite City Council amended its budget to include 15 grand for donations to the arts and worthy causes. Giving to worthy causes can get a public body in trouble easily, since there’s no limit to causes that are worthy.
But that $15,000 addition to the budget is hardly, as Councilman George Rapson noted, “opening the piggy bank.”
Both the city’s and the Virgin Valley Water District’s budgets are frugal, as they should be.
It’s too bad, however, that the city budget discussion never touched on an important topic. In attempting to be frugal, the city council last year, reached an agreement with its collective bargaining units to cut overall hours, allowing the city to shut down its non-emergency services on Fridays.
That trimmed just a few hours off workers’ pay stubs since under the new agreement they could work longer in the day, Mondays through Thursdays, without accruing overtime. It’s basically a 38-hour workweek over four days. Of course, closing city hall down on Fridays did cut many services to the public by 20 percent.
That would be balanced by savings, primarily utilities -- or so one would hope.
But the topic didn’t come up in the final budget hearing. That’s understandable. Why discuss something – even if it should be – if there’s nothing to be done about it?
The agreed-upon union contracts are still in effect and could not be changed willy-nilly without long, drawn-out negotiations that aren’t due this year.
But hearing how the shorter workweek plan’s going would have been nice, nonetheless.
Mayor Mark Wier says he’d like to see the public again get five-days of service out of the city, and it’s a good bet there’s some support on the council to revert to a Monday-through-Friday week. Maybe, after the finance director and city manager have a little more experience, we’ll all hear an update on that experimental, cost-cutting measure at some future council meeting.
What isn’t in the Virgin Valley Water District budget that maybe should be there, was at least discussed: setting some revenues aside to fund the proposed Basin No. 222 groundwater study.
Directors Ted Miller, Kenyon Leavitt and Richard Bowler didn’t want to pony up any money unless other stakeholders in the issue were willing to pay their share. That’s not unreasonable by any means. But it doesn’t do a lot to get the process started.
State Engineer Jason King and Dan Bright, the Nevada Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, attempted to get the VVWD directors to take some action. King made it clear that without better data than exists now, he’ll have little appetite to approve any major water applications in the Nevada portion of the basin. He and Bright said they fully support the VVWD’s efforts to get the agreements necessary in Arizona and Utah to get the study started, but that support won’t include federal money, barring some major economic and philosophical changes in the future.
There’s rumblings that water officials in Arizona and Utah are warming to the concept, but still are cool when it comes to putting money on the table.
That brings us back to the city budget. Is there any entity with a greater stake in the groundwater study than the City of Mesquite?
The arts, the Boy Scouts and the Salvation Army deserve much more that the $15,000 that will be made available for them to seek -- would that an extra zero could be added to that sum.
But $15,000 would be a reasonable amount for the city to contribute to the study that may be needed for Mesquite to grow in the future.
Stop right there! This isn’t a call for that allocation not to go to those worthy causes. It’s just a note that sometimes what’s not in a budget may be more important than what is.