The Westfield City Council on Oct. 11 tabled a vote on the 2022 budget after councilors said they need more time to review more than $5 million in cuts they learned of Oct. 9 to balance the $64 million proposed budget.
The cuts include eliminating the purchase of three pickup trucks and five police vehicles, reducing the crack seal street maintenance program and delaying construction of a roundabout at 169th Street and Carey Road and a vertical curve correction at 151st Street and Oak Road.
The original proposed budget included more than $8 million in capital expenses, such as police cars, that in past years were funded through general obligation bonds. However, the current city council wants to issue bonds to pay for capital expenses less often, so many of those expenses were added to the city’s budget, leading to the increase.
Mayor Andy Cook said he disagreed with most of the proposed cuts to the 2022 budget and with delaying a vote on it, as city officials have been working to develop the budget for months, which included input and questions from the city council.
“I think this process right now, this delay, delay, delay is making a mockery of our budget process,” Cook said. “I think our citizens are looking at us like (we’re the) federal government, bicker, bicker, bicker, go down to the last minute and kick it down the road, and I don’t think our citizens deserve that.”
City Councilor Troy Patton, who attended the meeting virtually, said that Cook and his administration chose the proposed cuts and that delaying the vote “is of no consequence” because state law sets the deadline to adopt a budget by Nov. 1.
“The fact is you want to remain spending half a million dollars on lawsuits and other things. That’s your prerogative, but we don’t have to like it,” said Patton, referring to Cook’s ongoing lawsuits against Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Gossard. “To say that we have to vote on it tonight, I think that’s ludicrous. That’s like giving something to someone at the last minute and saying, ‘Hey, just trust us on this.’”
The council unanimously voted to meet again the week of Oct. 18 to further discuss the budget, although a meeting date was not immediately set.