Budget Okayed but Still Under Scrutiny

In an effort to pay bills such as rent, the Town Council approved the fiscal year 2008-09 budget at their regular meeting on July 2, but in the same breath created a subcommittee to hash out the details of the document later.

The subcommittee is expected to be made up of Council members Jo Bacon and Neil McCarroll, Bruce Woodward and Jim Smith of the construction and development segment of the community, and John Walter and Mary Canada or Eric Wasserman (whoever accepts) of the local community. Their work will include discussions of changes to the schedule of fees and charges, such as Community Development fee increases, as well as factoring in current economic trends into the budget.

The community, as well as new Councilwoman Jo Bacon, convinced the rest of Council that these current economic trends were key to forecasting an accurate budget.

"We have to stop looking to the past and look to the future," stated local community member Rick Wood.

Those in favor of looking at economic trends didn't have to point their fingers far as to why they should be included. In the 2007-08 budget, the Town's Finance Director Brad Koehn stated that the Town would be looking at the possibility of a $283,000 shortfall in the sales tax projection as well as a $391,000 shortfall in Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). The TOT will have missed its projection by 40 percent.

These two items are indicators that Mammoth has been affected by the slow economy. Less people are coming to visit, whether it is because of high gas prices or not, there were less heads in beds and fewer items sold than were expected. This factor needs be worked into the equation of the budget, according to the community, since the economic is not expected to jumpstart any time soon.

The subcommittee work is expected to be brought back to Council at their next meeting on July 16, as well as to their meetings in August.

Council also swore in newly elected Council members Skip Harvey and Jo Bacon. The swearing in ceremony had been held off for an extra two weeks while the State certified the election results. New Mayor Wendy Sugimura was appointed, as was Mayor Pro Tem Neil McCarroll. Recognition was also given to outgoing Mayor Harvey.

Appointments were also made by the Council for four new members of the Planning Commission. Mayor Sugimura asked the Council to choose their top five applicants and whoever received the most votes from Council would be appointed to the top four spots. Council member John Eastman struggled to do this as he had only chosen four top candidates, but he played along, adding a fifth.

When the tally was counted Elizabeth Tenney, Roy Saari and Jay Deinken had the highest amount of votes and were given the three seats on the Commission that expire in 2012. Rhonda Duggan was next in line with three out of five votes and was rewarded with the seat that expires in 2010. When it came time to vote on accepting these new Planning Commissioners, however, Eastman voted no because he felt the new procedure should have been discussed among all Council members before being enforced.

Lastly, Council approved the formation of a steering committee to establish a Measure R funding allocation process, even with some hesitation from the public. Earl Henderson who sits on the Mammoth Community Water District suggested that the Council stop and take a longer look before they proceed, adding that paying for a facilitator for this committee did not seem necessary.

"We've shown we support it, now help us understand," Henderson said. He suggested that parks and recreation should be a special district with a Board of Directors. A Southern Mono Recreational District has already begun to be discussed and would be another funding source, according to Mono County Supervisor Vikki Magee-Bauer.

Tourism and Recreation Director Danna Stroud added that right now the process is about jurisdictional opportunities. She assured the public that there would be opportunities for different agencies, like the Water District, to come before the committee as the process goes along.

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