All four Marco City Council candidates say they stand for fiscal conservatism as they speak at numerous forums leading up to the election. What, precisely, does fiscal conservatism mean to each of these men?
Magel is the newest to the Marco council election process. For him, fiscal conservatism means: “Beginning with the annual budget, review each line item to determine if there is a more cost effective way to procure the service, and validate the need for the expenditure. During the year, review all spending requests to determine if it is really needed now, and how are we going to pay for it.”
Availability of funds and the need for the expense would be determined by requesting city staff give a more detailed, cost-based, business rationale for any expenditure, and seeking citizen input on priorities.
“For example, it’s not enough to say the money is coming from a particular account. We should know what the balance will be after the expenditure and what additional future expenses do we project.”
Council and the city manager are responsible for budget priorities, Magel says.
“It’s a two-way street, but the city council should provide more leadership and take a proactive stance on what the city should spend.”
An expense approved in the annual budget doesn’t necessarily mean it gets his approval when it comes back before council later in the year, or in future years, because priorities may change, he said.
Kiester’s four-year record on council speaks to his spending style.
“I will not vote in support of any project which commits the city to programs, such as the STRP (Septic Tank Replacement Program), and all of its ramifications to our residents, without sufficient study justifying its need and a referendum supporting the proposal.”
He will not support ‘nice to have’ capital projects until the city, county, state and nation get back on their collective financial feet, he added.
Budget priorities begin with the city manager and then rest with city council, Kiester said.
“It is up to the city manager, just as it is for any CEO, public or private, to propose priorities and to back them up with rationales supported by facts to their governing board, in this case, city council. The city council must then decide how to move forward.”
Approval in the annual budget doesn’t mean approval later as evidenced by voting “no” Monday to the Mackle Park improvements.
“At this point in time, with the losses all of us have taken due to the recession, my position is that none of us, including the city, can afford to fund anything more than basic services.”
It’s the third time that Marco voters will see Batte’s name on the ballots.
“Being fiscally conservative, especially in today’s economic climate, means approaching every expenditure with the questions: Is it absolutely essential? Do we have the money to pay for it? And, will such expenditure bring hardship to the taxpayers, who must pay the bill?”
Protecting the health, welfare and safety of people are Batte’s priorities, while nice-to-have items will be delayed.
“For example, infrastructure maintenance and repair far outweighs a new track around a park. Let’s get that track a little later when our economy improves and our people recover from the economic hardships they are currently enduring.
“We are all tightening our belts in our families and its time for our government to tighten its belt as well.”
Budget priorities should be suggested by the city manager, but council must be proactive in budget development and not merely reactive to the city manager’s recommendations.
Budget prioritization should be an ongoing activity, he said.
Batte plans to gauge affordability by seeking advice and guidance from the people who elected him, past and present city leaders, as well as civic organizations.
Forcht, also a four-year incumbent, is known for voting “no.”
“Government should provide those services and activities that would be economically impractical for individuals to provide for themselves.”
Priorities should be a blend of those suggested by the city manager and council, Forcht said.
“The city manager knows more about the inner workings of the city and its needs and requirements to run efficiently. I’m a councilman, its my job to find out what the desires and needs of the citizens of Marco are to sustain, and even enhance, our way of life here.”
He finds it easy to be a councilman in good times, but challenging in a recession.
“For the last two years, we have been using the ‘want or need’ method of prioritization, but as the economy slowly slips deeper and deeper, I think it’s time to get a better system.”
He ponders using a number tree system, where a number is assigned to a group of priorities and a numeric value is assigned to a set of criteria.
“How many people will be affected? How much will it cost? How long has it been needed? And on and on like that,” Forcht said.
If a project won’t protect the public’s health or well-being it can wait, he said.
There is no day at the poll, but mail ballots are due back to the Supervisor of Election’s Office by 7 p.m. Jan. 26. City Clerk Laura Litzan said she anticipates the winners being announced as early as 8 p.m. that day, given no unforeseen difficulties, of course. Count on marconews.com to release those results A.S.A.P.
The three winning candidates are to be sworn in by a judge for their first council meeting joining incumbents Jerry Gibson, Wayne Waldack, Bill Trotter and Frank Recker, on March 15, she added.