City officials give budget breakdown

The city of Portales 2011-2012 fiscal year budget involves about $8.12 million in expenditures and about $228,000 for a year-end balance.

“Basically our budget this year was not much different than last year’s budget,” City Manager Tom Howell said.

A 30-cents-an-hour pay raise for employees and increased fuel costs were the biggest increases, he said.

The News-Tribune asked Howell about specific details in the budget. Here is a summary of his answers:

• Which department had the biggest budget increase in the last five years and why?

The technology department has increased the most, from $108,000 in 2006 to $237,000 now.

One reason is that the department didn’t have an information technology employee in 2006, but now Dennis Hales holds that position.

The other reason is city phones now operate on Voice-over Internet Protocol, which involves using a broadband Internet connection for phone service.

VoIP provides overall savings for the city, but the technology department bears the entire cost. Before, individual departments paid for their own phone service.

• Who has the largest expense account, and what is it paying for?

The budget is broken down into departments, each of which has accounts for expenses such as travel, meeting registration fees and so forth.

“No one in the city has an individual account,” Howell said.

The mayor and city councilors share an account. The administration has an account, as do separate departments such as police and fire.

• Are city employees given credit cards, and if so, what are they buying with these cards?

Howell and Mayor Sharon King each have a credit card, and the fire department has several.

King said she only remembered using hers when she put her air fare on it for two trips to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressmen about local water issues.

Howell uses his for miscellaneous supplies when vendors won’t take purchase orders and for travel expenses. At the end of the month, the charges are broken out and costs are taken from the account of the department receiving the supplies or travel money.

In May, Howell used his credit card for computer supplies, possibly registration for city employee training and a doll for Portales Public Library. The cost of the doll was paid back with donations.

Howell’s credit card is the one used the most.

The fire department uses its credit cards for ambulance runs, for instance, when emergency medical service personnel need gas or food while transferring a patient to Lubbock.

• Who has the largest cell phone bill and why?

The city cell phone bill is about $1,000 a month. Howell, Building Inspector and Planning Director Sammy Standefer, police officers, fire fighters and garbage truck drivers going to the Clovis landfill all have city cell phones.

The expense of the phones depends on the plan, but Howell’s is probably the most expensive because it’s the only smart phone the city has. He said he would most likely get rid of the smart phone when its contract is up later this year because it isn’t worth the extra expense.

All plans are limited by hour. The police sometimes use more than their allotted time, often during investigations.

“We have a policy that you’re not allowed to use your cell phone for personal business,” Howell said.

Howell reviews the cell phone bills every month.