Weston responds to citizen’s budget allegations

© 2017-The Weston Democrat

Local resident Randy Bohan distributed handouts at Monday’s Weston City Council meeting outlining the differences between Weston’s spending on top administrators versus that of other surrounding cities.
The handouts allege that Weston spends a higher percentage of its budget on top administrative wages than other similar cities.
The handout included revenue and budget details for Weston and several area cities including Philippi, Clarksburg, and Grafton. The handouts featured each city’s population, budget, and listed salary numbers for city managers and other officials, as well as the percentage of the budget each city spends on top administrators.
The handouts claim that Weston spends 9.2 percent of the total budget on those salaries, while Clarksburg, Phillipi, and Grafton all spend lower percentages.
“The problem with this information is each city’s top administrative wages are not reported either correctly, consistently, or not in their entirety.  Also, it is not practical to compare the cities when their sources of revenue are not comparable,” Weston Finance manager Dodie Arbogast stated in a press release on Tuesday, Dec. 9.
Arbogast went on to cite examples of incorrect or incomplete information in the handouts.
“Per the state auditors website, Grafton’s budget is actually $2.9 million, making their “assumed top administrator salaries” 7.5 percent of budgeted revenues,” she said.
Bohan’s handout had $6.25 million listed as Grafton’s budget.
“Philippi provides water, sewer, garbage, and electric, but none of the department heads managing these departments are included in top administrators, but the revenues are included in total revenues,” Arbogast said.
“This inconsistency inflates the denominator without raising the numerator. Their actual budget for the city that was submitted to the state is $1.3 million. This makes their top administrators’ wages 16 percent of their budgeted revenues,” she continued.
“Weston has a gross revenue budget of $1.868 million for 2018, and this report includes two clerical positions as top administrators. In addition, the reported wages are incorrect for the city manager and finance manager, and the correct percentage is 5 percent,” Arbogast explained.
“The preparer failed to include the sanitation budget, which is $1.8 million. If this budget were included for comparison purposes only, the wage percent would be 2.9 percent.”
Arobgast also noted Bohan’s inconsistent definition of top administrators, noting his inclusion of clerical and administrative assistant salaries.
“The moral of this story is, you can maneuver the facts and get anything you want when your goal is to attack with deception,” Arboghast said, “and yes, you can make numbers lie, but you should be smart enough to not make the lies so obvious.”
In other news, Weston City Council members tabled an ordinance to formally abandon an alleyway located off of Brown Avenue after hearing from residents and attorneys from both sides of a lawsuit at their meeting on Monday, Dec. 4.  Local resident Jesse Prunty spoke before the council asking them to reconsidering the abandonment of the alleyway as it was the only access he had to the rear of his property.   
Prunty noted that he had previously been allowed to access the rear of his property through a neighbor’s property, but that the neighbor had decided no longer allow him to do so.
Rebekah Lockwood, Prunty’s neighbor, who filed suit in April against both the City of Weston, and William and Jacqueline Goe to force the full opening of the alleyway, which is blocked by a section of the Goe’s home also asked council to not formally abandon the alleyway.   
Burton Hunter, an attorney representing the Goe’s spoke, telling council that they had only heard a small portion of the story from the Goe’s neighbors.
“They’ve (Lockwood) filed a lawsuit to open an a non-existant alley through the center of the clients home,” Hunter said going on to note that the home was built in the 1960’s on the alleyway.
Mayor Julia Spelsberg said that she thought the issue had already been resolved through an arrangement between neighbors to allow access to the rear of their properties, and she was surprised to learn that the arrangement had fallen through.   
Councilman Richard Flanigan made the motion to table the issue for further review, the motion was seconded by Eric Dever and passed 3-0, Councilman John Wyllie was absent.   
Hunter expressed disappointment at the decision and claimed that the failure to abandon the alleyway would likely result in tens of thousands of dollars, in legal fees for the city.

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