Budget, sidewalk issues topics for Norris council

Norris City Council members spent nearly an hour Monday night discussing what the most-pressing issues are for City Manager Scott Hackler to address when he returns to work from medical leave, and decided that the city budget for next year tops the list.

In second place is getting bids lined up and a contract issued to complete the so-called Safe Routes to Schools sidewalk-improvement project the city has been working on for about the past two years.

No work has been done yet on the project, which will connect the Norris Middle School with the Norris Library, and upgrade and widen the sidewalk between the middle school and the downtown shopping area.

Mayor Chris Mitchell said the budget has become an issue because it must be approved by the start of the 2022-23 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Council members have scheduled at least one budget work session, but say they are confused about how to proceed because of lack of information about how this year’s budget is performing.

“I haven’t seen financials so far this year,” Mitchell said Tuesday morning. “We have had no monthly financial reports since early last summer.”

Normally, the previous month’s financial report has been presented to the council by city staff at the regular council meetings.

There were suggestions that the reports have been delayed because of the city’s recent attempts to switch to new financial software, and by personnel changes at City Hall, where the city recorder’s position has passed to a new person twice over the past two years. Current City Recorder Sandy Johnson recently joined the city.

Monday night, Councilman Robert Sain suggested that the city’s auditors were to blame for financial reports not being completed, but the mayor said the auditors have no responsibility for that.

“It’s not an auditors’ problem, it’s a management problem,” Mitchell said.

If no new budget is approved by the July 1 deadline, the current year’s budget will automatically be carried over, the mayor said.

Hackler has been on medical leave since suffering a health emergency on March 29.