The Town of Milton is considering establishing individual recreation funds for council members to fund community projects.
The city held its first budget workshop on Saturday and discussed a forward-looking budget of $12.8 million for 2023, up from $11.3 million in 2022. Milton officials are considering using to again a reduced mileage rate in the next fiscal year, with the intention of keeping the city’s revenue constant year over year, even as property values increase, by reducing the mileage rate.
Officials also discussed the possibility of creating recreation funds to have a reserve of money to meet the needs and demands of constituents and organizations throughout the fiscal year, and to have a source identifiable and transparent fund.
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Council members present expressed a wide range of opinions on the use of recreation funds, ranging from outright support or opposition to more nuanced suggestions such as having a council-wide fund instead. smaller scholarships dedicated to individual members.
“I just don’t know, when we’re dealing with other things that we need to fund, why should the council and the mayor have play money,” Mayor Heather Lindsay said.
Councilman Vernon Compton. expressing support for the idea, said: “When we look at shrinking government more and more, shrinking more and more, someone often has to step up and expand those services to veterans, to serve the poor of the community, to fill a kind of void. And if we can help make something like this happen with a small contribution, I think that’s a very positive thing for this council to do.
City budget coordinator Heidi Sroka pointed out that without some sort of way to respond to these types of funding requests, city staff are left scrambling to find an adequate source.
“If you have an organization that says, ‘We’re having a charity event, and we really need $500 from the city to help us out,’ we don’t have room in our budget to take that (request type) ,” Sroka said.
Several council members warned that they thought giving individual members their own recreation fund could cause conflict.
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“I could totally imagine a council member saying it’s their money and pressuring other council members to vote for them,” Councilwoman Shannon Rice said.
And another member, councilor Casey Powell, proposed the idea of having a set amount for a sponsorship fund that could be used for council-supported events or projects.
“Instead of having a per person stipend, I think it would make more sense to just be one amount,” Powell said.
Other financial topics have taken center stage in Milton lately.
In June, Milton city employees received a pay raise to combat the effects of inflation, which city documents say the 8% increase will cost the city about $178,000. Lindsay and other city officials attributed their ability to issue the increases to Milton’s fiscal responsibility.
“We need to make sure that everything this council does, in terms of spending, has a public purpose,” Lindsay said during Saturday’s workshop.
Recreational funds and other budgetary matters will be on the board’s agenda again on Thursday, July 21 at the Committee of the Whole meeting.