Home-rule group talks about budget, water | SteamboatToday.com

Home-rule group talks about budget, water

Hayden may share more finance information publicly

Blythe Terrell

— Hayden’s Home Rule Charter Commission took a stab at several key issues Monday, including shedding more light on the town’s budgeting of money, transferring money into and out of enterprise funds, and securing water rights. The discussions were the beginning of a process expected to lead to the drafting of a home-rule charter that would govern the town if approved by trustees and the public.

The nine-member commission met for about an hour Monday, although only five of its members attended. They were Vice Chairman Bill Irvine, Gordon Dowling, James Folley, James Lewis and Bryan Strickland. Town Trustee Tom Rogalski also listened in, and Town Manager Russ Martin led the discussion.

One of Martin’s priorities for the meeting was figuring out how to shed more light on the budget process. As it stands, the town can move money between departments without the Board of Trustees’ OK, as long as the budget numbers come out even. Martin suggested requiring board approval of the transfer of money between town departments.

“This process would require that process to go before the people, just like the original budget, and make sure that transfer met the priorities of the public,” Martin said.

That way, he said, the public could judge whether the town was budgeting according to residents’ priorities.

Commission members agreed to that, also agreeing to keep the calendar year as their fiscal year.

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The commission also discussed moving money into and out of enterprise funds, which cover water and sewer services. For example, Craig restricts movement of money out of but not into its enterprise fund, Martin said. He suggested that the Town Board be given the option of moving money as members see fit.

“I think that’d be one I’d like to come back to,” Strickland said. Other panel members agreed.

The commission also agreed that franchise agreements, or deals to run services such as electricity and cable TV, should be reviewed every 10 years. Members decided those shouldn’t automatically be put to a public vote.

The final issue the panel addressed was water rights related to franchise agreements. Martin suggested adding a statement to the charter clarifying that Hayden wouldn’t relinquish its water rights as part of a franchise contract.

“This restricts the board or any town board in the future from giving the water rights away as any part of a deal,” Martin said.

Commission members strongly agreed that retaining water rights was crucial.

“It’s as important of a statement as maybe anything that’s done in here,” Martin said.

The Home Rule Charter Commission doesn’t have the final say on the town charter. The panel will create a draft, which will go to a public hearing. The Town Board will vote on the charter, and it likely is to go to voters this summer if the board approves it.

Dowling expressed frustration that the commission was short four board members Monday. Mayor Lorraine Johnson, Trustee Richard “Festus” Hagins, schools Superintendent Greg Rockhold and Hayden High School Principal Troy Zabel were absent. All were excused, Martin said.

The panel will take a break next week and will meet May 4.