Like the state of Illinois, the Village of South Jacksonville is having problems passing a budget.
Mayor Steve Waltrip and the rest of the trustees spent the better part of an hour airing their grievances with several issues on the Thursday night agenda scheduled to be voted on.
Trustee Stacy Pinkerton got the ball rolling by making a motion to remove three action items from the agenda: the 2016-2017 South Jacksonville budget, a resolution to purchase a 2014 Dodge Charger for the police department and an ordinance to establish rules for operating golf carts in the village.
Pinkerton highlighted an interesting note about the village’s squad car.
“It was never approved for purchase. It was not going to be approved until the budget was passed. But, they had written out the check on the 23rd, the same day as we had the budget meeting, and it was purchased that day,” says Pinkerton.
Paula Belobrajdic-Stewart shared her thoughts on the issue.
“During this meeting, we were supposed to approve our budget, and supposed to approve resolutions for three vehicle purchases for different departments. I noticed in our accounts payable that we had already purchased one of those vehicles and gotten the license for it. And, the dates didn’t match up because we hadn’t, obviously, had our meeting yet, tonight. So, that raised a concern for me, because we had not passed the budget, and we had not passed the resolutions for those vehicles,” Stewart says.
“Everyone is on board with giving a new vehicle to the police department, new vehicle to the fire department, new vehicle for John Green and the several departments he covers, but when procedure is not followed properly, that’s very frustrating, because obviously, you saw tonight, many items removed, all because of the actions of one instance of procedure not being followed,” she adds.
Trustee Kem Wilson called the purchase of the squad car without trustee approval a “major red flag.”
“I’ve never seen anything like that before. I can’t explain why that happened, but the board did not know anything about that until we got our board packets on Tuesday, and when we start going through the payables and you see that the police car’s already bought, and the sticker’s already bought, and we have not even passed the budget, that’s illegal,” says Wilson.
Waltrip explains his interpretation of the events that led to the village purchasing a new squad car.
“Well, that was my assumption that the trustees, the time that that happened, that we were going to buy the car. We had the funds available from last year’s fiscal year to take care of that, but put that as a line item in the budget this year,” he says.
Reporter: “So, was that a mistake or just a miscommunication?”
Waltrip: “A miscommunication, a misunderstanding is what it was.”
Reporter: “What’s the normal protocol when a car gets ruined, is it approved by the board, or do you just do it, because you’re the mayor?”
Waltrip: “I want the board to be aware of this, it was my assumption that that was the take that we were going to have under these circumstances, that the department needed the car, and everything was good to go.”
After Pinkerton’s motion passed 5-1, trustee Mike Elliot made an additional motion, which also passed 5-1, to remove the purchase of a new fire truck for the South Jacksonville Fire Department from the agenda.
Elliot explains why he made that motion.
“I think it needed to be run through the Public Protection Committee for the purchase of a potentially half-a-million-dollar vehicle, go through the channels of specifications and things like that rather than just pick one from a picture and be under the gun to have one picked out that could be sold at any time,” says Elliott.
“I think we needed to do some due diligence on what we want, what we need, and how much we’re going to spend in the future for the future of the village. There were just some other issues with the budget, and we couldn’t just pass parts of the budget, it had to be passed as a whole. So, it just held everything up,” he adds.
South Jacksonville Fire Chief David Hickox explains the position the fire department has been place in.
“Tonight, if they’d have passed the budget and we got that contract signed, where we want to purchase this truck, then it locks the truck in. This truck was built as a demonstrator, it’s a first-come, first-serve basis,” he says.
“And like we said, we already lost one waiting for things to come around, get the budget approved and things like that. It could be here today, it could be here two weeks from now, we don’t really know. So, it’s kind of put a burden on us. And I understand they have questions, when you spend that kind of money.”
Hickox felt “surprised” that the new truck wasn’t approved at the end of the meeting.
“We had talked about it in financing and our committee about buying a truck. So, they were well aware of it. I just don’t know if they knew what kind of truck we were going to buy. If they don’t approve the budget, then nothing gets done. So, everybody’s on hold, and I understand that’s how it works, and I hope that they look at it in a long-range goal, buying a vehicle like that, the village growing, and they need to keep up with it,” says Hickox.
South Jacksonville’s current fire truck is 30-years-old.
As for the reason Waltrip was the only member of the board to vote in favor of keeping the budget item on the agenda…
“In our last meeting, I was pretty well led to believe that everything was going to be in order and passed and things of that nature, and didn’t get any inkling that there were problems. So, I was kind of confused, but, I feel comfortable with the budget,” Waltrip says.
Reporter: “So, this kind of caught you by surprise?”
Pinkerton also brought up an increase in the budget dealing with equipment replacement for materials inside the wrecked car of fallen South Jacksonville Officer Scott Fitzgerald. Trustees agreed the insurance claim needs to be submitted, so the line item can be adjusted in the police budget.
As for the golf cart ordinance issue, trustees agreed the topic needed further review before a vote to place.
Altogether, ten items were removed from the agenda by trustees.
Trustees will meet again on Tuesday to discuss these items in greater detail. A public protection meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., followed by a finance committee meeting and then a special meeting to vote on the amended budget.