City Charter says vote had to occur by Sept. 15

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

The Alice City Budget for fiscal year 2007-2008 was adopted without council approval Saturday, after city officials failed to get council approval for the budget before a deadline mandated by the city's charter.

According to the Alice City Charter, the budget must be adopted by the council no later than Sept. 15, more than two weeks before the Sept. 30 deadline required by state law.

Under the rules set by the charter, if the budget is not adopted by Sept. 15, the budget presented by the city manager must be adopted without council approval.

On Friday, City Manager Albert Uresti said the deadline had been missed because of an oversight, but said no violations of the charter had occurred because the charter provides a second option if the deadline is not met.

City finance director Hector Hinojosa took personal responsibility for the mistake Friday, and said he was unaware the city's charter mandated a different deadline than the state.

"It's my fault. I didn't realize the charter said you have to do it by Sept. 15," Hinojosa said. "We didn't do it intentionally, it was unintentional."

Hinojosa also said the budget adopted Saturday would be "pretty much" the same budget the council had seen during previous budget workshops.

Although the council met and discussed the budget on Sept. 10, the council did not vote to adopt the budget because the law requires a public hearing be held before the budget may be adopted. That public hearing is currently scheduled for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

When asked why citizens should attend a public hearing on the budget when the budget has already been adopted, Uresti said the hearing was a "formality," and the city had received input from citizens during the budget process.

"I think it's misleading to say that the citizens have not had input," Uresti said. "A lot of citizens have contacted the council; a lot of citizens have contacted me. So there has been an ongoing dialogue between the council, myself, the staff and the citizens.

"The public hearing does allow for the citizens to come, but it's also a formality that the city charter requires."

Uresti and Hinojosa said although the budget has already been adopted, it is still possible to amend it if changes are requested by the council.

"We can always amend the budget anytime," Hinojosa said.

The council is still scheduled to vote on whether to adopt the budget in a meeting on Sept. 24, Uresti said, in order to be in compliance with state regulations.

"The council has put this budget together," Uresti said. "This budget was put together by staff, but with direction by council. They're fine with the budget, they approve of it and they endorse it."