City Council Candidate Responses: How would you make funding decisions and set priorities?

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(Gillette, Wyo.) There are eight candidates running for city council in contested races.

There are three candidates for mayor. There are also four candidates in two races for Ward I council positions. Why are there two races for Ward I? There are three wards in Gillette, with two councilors in each ward. Kevin McGrath resigned from his Ward I position, and the council appointed Shawn Neary to that Ward I position. It has two years remaining, and Bruce Brown and Darin Edmonds are running for that spot. The second Ward I council position is also up for election for a four-year term. Shawn Neary and Terry Sjolin are vying for that spot on the council.

Incumbents Tim Carsrud and Robin Kuntz in Ward II and Ward III are also up for election, but their races are unchallenged.

As part of our goal here at County 17 of informing voters for the upcoming primaries, we are sending out unique questions for each race to let voters get a better understanding of who the candidates are.

We’ll be posting answers from the councilor candidates through today and the weekend. Here’s previous responses:

The primaries are Aug. 21.

Sales and use tax revenue is showing considerable improvement, but of course no one can predict future economic trends. How would you make funding decisions and set priorities? (limit 500 words)

Mayoral Candidate Louise Carter-King

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Before the economy took the downturn two years ago, the council awarded projects based upon the projection of anticipated revenue.  Now we award projects based upon the previous year’s money actually collected.

We design projects consistent with what the citizens survey reports the people consider most important.  Repeatedly the survey shows the top priority is to keep our streets and infrastructure maintained. We do not veer from what the survey tells us, hence the people dictate what the priorities should be. I believe this shows great fiscal responsibility and is a model that works.

Mayoral Candidate Jarik Dudley

You’re right no one can predict future economic trends, but I would argue that we can curve future economic downturns based on historical information. Financial decisions made today doesn’t always affect the now. These decisions have the ability to affect the future. Knowing our history, we can make informed decisions that can benefit the community today and have long lasting benefits for the future. We need to have conservative financial decisions and make core services the priority. Secondary services will be funded on performance. I believe if a program is not performing effectively, it is a drain on the taxpayers and should be visited by the council to uncover the scope of the issue and make a decision to fund or deny funding.

Mayoral Candidate Robert Kaczmarek

If elected I would sit down with the Council and go over all of what is planed is of now and the future out of these things come a big thing for how to divide funds for what they are needed for and why the asking of funds from the City.   I would very much welcome companies come it to Gillette that are of a manufacturing plant so that the employment is gainful for the Citizens and not just a office taking up space, a plant of some sort is the best thing that is needed.


Ward I (2-year) Councilor Candidate Bruce Brown

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When I make a funding decision I like to use a method I learned while I was in the MBA program at the University of Wyoming, the decision tree. Funding priority decisions are rarely easy to make and deserve a thorough analysis to make a sound decision to protect the taxpayers’ money from over spending.

As an example, let’s consider a request for funding of street repairs.

First, I ask do we have the money to fund this request? If we do have the money for the request I proceed to the next step. If we don’t have the money, I will vote not to fund the project.

Second, I ask does this project further the accomplishment of the Strategic Master Plan for the City? If the request falls within the Strategic Master Plan for the City of Gillette I will vote to fund the request. If it does not fall within the Strategic Master Plan I ask the next question.

Third, Is the funding request necessary for the safety and welfare of the citizens of Gillette? I ask do we have another area in the budget where we can move funds to fund the request. If we can’t move budget line items I ask is there another source of funds we can use? If there is another viable source of funds I will vote to fund the project. If we cannot find the money to fund the request I will vote not to fund the request.

Ward I (2-year) Councilor Candidate Darin Edmonds

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Sales and use tax revenue is always going to ebb and flow. It will reflect the condition of the local and national economies. The Cemetery District relies on a Mill levy rather than sales taxes, but the two are very similar in their ups and downs and unpredictability. Because of this, we think very strategically, and hold annual planning retreats to review and revise our short and long-term plans based on the current funding realities.  All of the governmental entities rely to some extent on reserves or as they are commonly referred to as “rainy day accounts”. When revenues are up, they squirrel away funds to soften the downturn without sudden drastic measures.  This is a responsible and predicable approach. What the Cemetery District has realized during the most recent downturn is that everything is on Sale.  An entity’s typical reaction is to freeze spending, cut spending, and play a wait and see approach. These are appropriate responses, but if you have been strategic in your saving, and can be a patient organization, you realize that equipment vendors will negotiate a little more desperately and deliver much lower prices. Capital construction projects go “on sale” during a downturn. If an agency can be patient, it is amazing the amount of money you can save when it’s more a buyers market than a sellers market. The Cemetery District saved $2 million dollars on a recent large capital construction project by not bidding at the height of the economy and waiting one year. When buying equipment, we were able to get negotiated prices that erased 10 years of inflationary increases.

Funding decisions and priorities for spending must always be at the forefront of all discussions. Having a perspective of 37 years in Wyoming and Campbell County, you have a better idea of what to expect, and more importantly how to plan. Having adequate reserves allows you a safety net to ride out a storm, and if you are consistent, diligent and patient, you can take advantage of some incredible opportunities.

 


Ward I (4-year) Councilor Candidate Terry Sjolin

Planning for future economic shortfalls, controlling spending, and continuing to search for more efficient ways to provide quality services to Gillette residents should always be a priority when your budget relies on fluctuating sales tax. Essential city services should be our first concern, such as utilities, waste removal, snow removal, street repair and maintenance, police department, and fire department. During the economic downturn we saw residents needs increase and the use of support agencies increase. These agencies also need continued support, even though tough decisions regarding the amount of funding to allocate may have to be made. I am confident I can make responsible decisions that will continue to provide the best services possible through the city.

Ward I (4-year) Councilor Candidate Shawn Neary

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Right now the city has a rigorous process for all of its funding decisions and priorities that each department needs and wants.  Through that process, I feel that we are able to make informed decisions on the budget.

 

 

 

 

Originally from New Mexico, Killough began his career writing freelance for a weekly magazine in Albuquerque while completing his undergraduate degree. In addition to reporting on uranium mining in western New Mexico, he spent three years reporting in western North Dakota during the height of the oil boom. He can be reached at kevin@county17.com or 701-641-6603.