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2011-03-31

Mayor pro tem shuts city council meeting down

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

A clearly irritated City of Bandera Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Schumacher made short shrift of a special workshop on Thursday, March 24.
After reading from a prepared statement, she abruptly exited the hastily called session, leaving Mayor Horst Pallaske little option but to adjourn the workshop for lack of a quorum. Items included on the agenda were hiring a part-time administrative clerk, offering all city employees a two percent raise, re-instating City Administrator Gene Foerster's vehicle allowance and allocating funds for repair and maintenance of waste water lines and the water treatment facility.
The same items had been slated for action during the Thursday, March 17, meeting, but, by a unanimous vote, council opted to postpone action until after a budget workshop could be held. According to Schumacher, the workshop would enable councilmen to participate fully in the budgeting process "as is their right." In response, a budget workshop was scheduled for last Thursday, despite the fact that Councilman Binky Archer would be unable to attend because of work commitments. Requests to reschedule the budget workshop to a time convenient to all concerned parties proved futile.
The first to speak was Councilman Nancy Montgomery - albeit in a whisper due to a case of acute laryngitis. Reading from her own prepared statement, she said, "At this time, the state of the city is so poor that I see no way to approve a two percent raise or any increase in wages for city employees." She added that the pay hike would not be noticeable in take-home pay, but would instead be "eaten up by taxes."
Montgomery continued, "At the time when other cities are laying off staff, our employees should be grateful they have employment in our depressed little town." Referencing an increase in requests for food, clothing and services at local churches, Helping Hand and the Arthur Nagle Community Clinic, she said, "Times are tough."
Likewise, Montgomery failed to support a part-time administrative addition to city staff at this time. "Everyone must pull up their boot straps and work hard. I have told city staff I can come in to help at times." Additionally, after scrutinizing the list of duties assigned to the part-time clerk, Montgomery felt compelled to ask, "It seemed that Jackie is being asked to do a great deal. Is she supposed to be a one-woman show?"
Regarding the re-instatement of Foerster's travel allowance in the amount of $300 a month, Montgomery said. "The town is only about four miles wide and any traveling Gene does is usually in a city truck. I see no reason to give him a travel allowance." She recommended that Foerster turn in his mileage each month for proper reimbursement.
"The yearly budget process is coming up after the summer's busy period. Should the city experience a great summer and early fall, perhaps merit raises would be in order after employee evaluations are completed," Montgomery concluded, advocating earmarking any "windfall" city funds for unseen emergencies "like last weekend's water main problems."
In her prepared statement, Schumacher took exception to city staff scheduling the workshop at a time when all members could not attend and the council having no input on what items to include during the workshop. "To repeat the same self-serving items that were on the city council agenda is not my idea of a true budget workshop. Again, it shows that you are not interested in working with us, but want us to rubberstamp your requests," she noted.
"When we were presented with the budget last year, Gene said he would not approve hiring a part-time clerical assistant requested by (City Secretary) Linda (Boshek) and the mayor because we could not give raises," Schumacher continued. "Now, despite all of the negative economic news, across the board raises are being requested - as is the part-time position. I suggest you connect the dots."
She emphasized that while she felt employees deserved raises, she advised council to wait until the 2011-2012 fiscal year to offer raises "that are meaningful and that reward those employees who exceed expectations."
Schumacher also pointed out that the city - i.e., taxpayers - absorbed an additional $1,200 for each employee's healthcare benefits. "This should be taken into consideration when we look at budget issues."
In conclusion, she said, "Before these items come back to city council, I urge the city administration to think about whom you are working for. You are supposed to be working for the residents and businesses of Bandera - and not for your own needs. You are supposed to be working with city council - not working around us."
To a round of spontaneous applause, Schumacher exited the municipal building, effectively ending the special workshop.