City Council approves budget for next fiscal year


Chris Anderson/Iowa State Daily

City council members discuss the proposed budget for 2017/2018 fiscal year.

Chris Anderson

The Ames City Council held a public hearing Tuesday to invite public input on its budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Former council member Matthew Goodman gave a presentation to the council on behalf of the Ames Progressive Alliance asking for additional funding to the Human Services Agency capital improvements program.

The program is intended to fund one-time capital improvements to human service agencies in Ames.

Goodman asked the council to add about $500,000 to the fund to improve human service agencies in the city.

Councilman Tim Gartin thanked the group, whose mission is “to lead Ames toward a shared, vibrant and prosperous future by leveraging community resources for progressive priorities,” for advocating for change in the community.

“We’re better off as a community because we have these kinds of conversations,” Gartin said.

The council currently has $300,000 allocated to the program from a general fund set up last year. The proposed budget called for an additional $200,000 to be paid for by local option sales tax.

There was a proposed amendment to add $100,000 to the fund, which was much less than what Goodman proposed.

The council voted no on the proposed amendment and will only add $200,000 paid for by local option sales tax. A total of $500,000 will be available for the council to spend on human service agency capital improvements.

The council also voted on an amendment to the budget that would add $68,000 to a newly created Story County Housing Trust Fund Task Force. Councilwoman Amber Corrieri brought up the idea of allocating the money in last week’s meeting.

The reasoning for setting up such a fund would be to leverage state funds that are available to cities that set up a trust fund for housing.

Gartin originally came out in opposition of the proposed amendment but decided to vote for it once he realized there was a need for such a program.

Gartin warned about the precedent the amendment could set. He warned that funds offered by the state are not unlimited, and that if the city of Ames took an amount, somebody else would not receive that funding.

He also brought up that the state of Iowa is in financial distress, a problem that is not felt as much by the city of Ames.

“The goal should not be to leverage other people’s money,” Gartin said.

An amendment that prompted discussion by the council was that of allocating money for the purpose of pay raises to the City Council and the mayor.

Councilwoman Gloria Betcher initially proposed a pay raise during last week’s meeting.

The motivation behind her proposal was to attract those struggling financially to consider running for City Council, where a larger salary could make a sizable difference in their quality of life.

“I would really like to see us attracting more people to get involved in council,” Betcher said.

Betcher proposed that the council allocate funds to raise council salaries to $10,000 for a council member and $11,000 for the mayor.

Many other council members were initially opposed to the idea because they felt uncomfortable raising their own salaries or felt that they didn’t need the salary altogether.

Councilman Peter Orazem expressed interest in having the option to forego the salary altogether.

Other concerns brought up were higher salaries opening the door to career politicians in the city, although it was noted that $10,000 doesn’t come close to a living salary.

Betcher also brought up that the council has not seen a pay raise in 16 years and would have to wait for another mayoral election year to vote on allocating the funds.

“Voting yourself a raise once in 12 years doesn’t seem out of line,” Betcher said.

With stipulations that the money not be spent on pay raises until more research is done on the matter and public input is gathered, the council voted to allocate the funds for pay raises.

The budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year was approved as amended.