Budget hearings over for another year

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By Jennifer Garcia

Los Alamos County is done with its budget hearings for another year. The hearings related to the proposed biennial budget for FY 2010 concluded Tuesday night in council chambers.

The Tuesday meeting had been tentatively scheduled in case talks did not wrap up on April 23.  During last night’s meeting, budgets for the Public Works Department, as well as the Administrative Services budget, were discussed.

In addition, financial policies and a request for funding from UNM-LA were also discussed.

During his presentation to council on the Public Works budget, Chief Financial Officer Steven Lynne said that the biggest change was an addition of $300,000 for the transportation master plan.

“That’s the biggest variance,” he said. “The transit fund is consistent with the transit master plan. We will add two new administrative positions and five operator positions.”

Lynne also said the county will start receiving money from the North Central Regional Transit system in the fall and that money will be used for expanded service. However, he also said that if the amount of money is significantly different from what they are expecting, the expansion will not occur.

During that portion of the meeting the airport was also discussed, with the subject focusing mainly on hangars and runway improvements.

Councilor Nona Bowman asked Lynne if the pilots who house their planes at the airport are expected to pay for the new hangars that may be built.

“They’ll be leased out with a loan from the general fund,” Lynne said.

He also mentioned that the first row of hangars wouldn’t be built until people express serious interest in them. Right now, according to Airport Manager David Ploeger, there are about 15-20 planes without shelter.

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle asked if a study would have to be done in order to overlay the existing runway. Ploeger said a study has already been done and the runway overlay is estimated at $4 million.

“The extension is a little over $2 million, so altogether, it’s about $6.1 million,” he explained.

Following further discussion of the Public Works proposed budget, Councilor Robert Gibson made a motion, suggesting that the $300,000 in funding for the transportation master plan be removed from the Public Works Department FY 10 proposed budget and that a Trinity Drive/East Road corridor upgrade project be added to the CIP, with an FY 2010 proposed budget authorization of $200,000, for study and a potential project cost of $7.5 million, based on a rough order of magnitude estimate range of $5 to $10 million. The motion passed 6-1, with Chiravalle opposed.

“This should not be solely about what happens on Trinity Drive. I’m against taking the money for the transportation master plan out of the Public Works budget,” Chiravalle said.

During the Administrative Services budget discussion, Councilor Sharon Stover voiced her concerns about the county’s website. “Our website can be improved. The information on there is not consistent,” she pointed out.

County Administrator Max Baker explained to Stover that the content featured on the Web site is controlled by the various departments, with insight from the public information officer and the committee set up to help with the site.

“What you’re seeing are some growing pains,” Baker said. “It’s hard to find that happy place where everyone is happy.”

After talking a bit more about the website, Stover moved to tentatively approve the Administrative Services budget, as amended, by adding $2 million in the Economic Development Loan Program. The motion passed 6-1, this time Gibson opposed.

When the request for funding from UNM-LA came up, Chiravalle and Council Vice Chair Mike Wismer both recused themselves because Chiravalle’s mother is the Chair of the UNM-LA Advisory Board and Wismer serves on the board.

With very little discussion, council voted 5-0 in favor of approving an additional $150,000 to the Progress through Partnerships Program in the county administrator’s FY 10 proposed budget, to support UNM-LA’s request for funding.

The subject of appropriating $47,000 for structural deficiencies in the tennis courts was brought up again Tuesday night during the financial policies portion of the discussion.

Bowman suggested that the $47,000 be appropriated and Chiravalle agreed, however, Gibson pointed out that this same motion had been voted down at the last meeting and questioned why Bowman was presenting the motion again.

Bowman, upon the advice of Council Chair Michael Wheeler, agreed to present the motion for reconsideration, rather than make the motion once more. By a show of hands, the motion to reconsider Bowman’s motion failed 4-3. Bowman, Chiravalle and Wheeler voted for it.

Though there was some discussion regarding verbiage and inconsistencies with the financial policies, council took no action regarding them.