CALUMET CITY | The City Council on Thursday approved an appropriations ordinance that provides a nearly $1.4 million increase in funds for municipal government for the current fiscal year.
But Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush insisted, both before and after a 6-0 vote was taken by aldermen, that the additional funds do not mean the city is flush with cash.
She pointed out increases in expenses such as gasoline (a $140,000 boost during the past two years) and utilities, along with the costs of maintaining police and fire departments that take up nearly $15 million of the $34.61 million that comprises the corporate fund that pays for daily government expenses for the fiscal year beginning May 1.
In all, Qualkinbush said, more than 80 percent of the corporate fund is going for expenses over which city officials have no control over costs, particularly since the budget does not call for any new tax increases.
“It’s not easy to balance a budget when most of the costs are things we can’t control,” she said.
A vote was taken during the City Council’s regular meeting, and there was little discussion among aldermen about the spending plan that is an increase from the $33.23 million appropriated for the corporate fund for the previous fiscal year.
One resident, Hope Allen, a former administrative secretary to Qualkinbush, used a public comment portion of the council meeting to accuse the aldermen of implementing pay raises for several individuals, although Qualkinbush said following the council session, “she has her facts confused.”
Otherwise, there was little opposition to the appropriations ordinance.
A public hearing on the ordinance held prior to the City Council meeting lasted all of four minutes. It only went that long because Qualkinbush permitted two women who wanted to talk about issues unrelated to appropriations or government finance to speak then.
Alderman Antoine Collins, 7th, was not present for Thursday's vote. Nor was he on hand when the council’s Finance Committee held its final session on Wednesday to discuss the budget.
Qualkinbush said Collins’ absence was excused, and 6th Ward Alderman Nick Manousopoulos said Collins had told him he approved of the proposed budget as it was altered by aldermen at various Finance Committee sessions during the past two weeks.