Shamokin mayor, controller spar over finances
SHAMOKIN - A rift appeared Monday night between the controller and the mayor after the former questioned an out-of-budget expenditure to recall a meter clerk from furlough.
Controller Gary Haddock had asked from where city council would find the money to pay Special Officer Norm Lukoskie who was recalled from furlough Monday on a unanimous vote. The expense is not in the budget, he said.
Mayor William D. Milbrand said the position would fund itself through increased enforcement of parking meter violations, something that dropped dramatically at the start of 2014 following police officer furloughs.
Minutes later after the meeting adjourned, Milbrand rose from his seat, walked toward Haddock and said: "You know who else's salary isn't in the budget, Gary? Your salary isn't in the budget."
Lukoskie will be paid $8 hourly for 28 hours a week, about $9,400 for the remainder of the year. He was back on the job Tuesday, issuing tickets and also assisting with prisoner transports.
When city council adopted a revised budget in February, all legislative salaries were eliminated as a cost-cutting measure, including city council and the controller position. However, Haddock has received a paycheck for each of the first three months of 2014, a quarter of the $3,250 salary that also is not in the budget.
Milbrand said Tuesday that Haddock shouldn't be paid, but the decision isn't his own. If the controller's pay is going to be stopped, he said it will take a majority decision by council.
Haddock didn't reply to Milbrand Monday night. On Tuesday, he said he'd never been asked to give up his salary, had no input on the move and would never have agreed to it.
"To be honest with you, for the work that we're putting in right now trying to correct some of these mistakes, I would not give my salary up for the little bit that it is and for the hours I'm putting in now," Haddock said.
Milbrand said Tuesday the elimination of legislative salaries had certainly been discussed during any one of the slew of special budget meetings held earlier this year. Haddock was there for all of them, he said.
"He had the nerve last night to caution us, but he's still taking his salary after all the legislators gave up their salaries," Milbrand said. "He knew there was no legislative salaries in that budget. That's a big cop out."
Lukoskie was among the employees laid off in January amid Shamokin's budget crisis. Enforcement of parking regulations suffered, with the issuance of parking tickets and collection of meter revenue both dipping substantially.
Approximately $100,000 was collected from the meters in 2013, an average of nearly $8,333 a month. In 2014, the city has collected about $8,000 from the meters to date, according to Police Chief Ed Griffiths.
Six-hundred parking meters were purchased and installed in 2012 on a five-year, $100,901 loan at 3.591 percent interest.
Although the meters took in $100,000 last year, Haddock said every penny of the estimated 2014 meter revenue is accounted for in the expenses budgeted for this year. Lukoskie's salary is "deficit spending," Haddock said.
He said everyone in City Hall, himself and Milbrand included, is working hard to avoid the financial missteps that came to light publicly in 2013. If council is spending out of budget, he said it's his responsibility to raise the issue, a responsibility he has pledged to take more seriously this year.
Milbrand said it's necessary to have a meter clerk. "We need him and I think everyone knows we need him," he said.
Councilman Charlie Verano said Haddock as the controller has a right to question the moves made by city council. "That actually is his job," he said.
Verano had been on the fence in the days leading up to Monday's vote on recalling Lukoskie but said he was convinced both by Griffiths and interim City Clerk Ed Zack that it would work.
Work on bills
Milbrand questioned just how much time Haddock has dedicated to the job.
Haddock essentially volunteered to input into the city's accounting system a heap of unpaid bills left over from 2013. Those bills must be documented in Shamokin's ongoing quest for an estimated $800,000 loan to pay the outstanding invoices.
Milbrand recalled having stressed in January the importance this task.
"It was a key factor in getting the unfunded debt loan. ... He knew what the urgency was," Milbrand said.
Haddock said Tuesday when contacted by telephone that he was doing just that, inputting bills into the accounting system. It's not a job associated with the position of controller anyway, he said. The task belongs to the city clerk position, and Zack is working on it during his interim employment.
Milbrand said Haddock dropped the ball, too, on completing a mandated year-end report for 2012. It raised a "red flag" when a draw-down was attempted on an Early Intervention Program grant to pay the city's financial advisor, the mayor said.
Haddock said the report had been finalized on time but that it sat in City Hall unaddressed. It has since been submitted, he said.
Like the positions of mayor, city council member and city treasurer, the controller's is an elected position. Haddock was re-elected to a four-year term in November, the same election in which Milbrand won the mayor's job for four years.