HARRISONBURG — City Council had a quick meeting Tuesday, which included an update from the SPCA and a reallocation of more than $1 million from the General Fund to the General Capital Projects fund.
Council approved reallocating $1,145,000 from the General Fund to the General Capital Projects Fund for a number of projects, although Councilman Chris Jones voiced frustrations about the item.
“We have been able to identify some savings throughout our budget,” Larry Propst, the city’s director of finance, said in reference to the $1,145,000.
Jones asked Propst if the money was a surplus.
“This is not a surplus. This is money in the General Fund savings that we have identified and are now reallocating,” Propst said.
Jones referred back to the city’s rejection of the community contributions piece during its budget work session “and yet we have this budgeted funds savings and so I’m wondering how we could shift that.”
At the budget meeting council had on May 9, Jones asked City Manager Eric Campbell if he could re-balance the budget by $228,150, which is the total amount requested by nine organizations that didn’t receive funding.
Campbell and the rest of council were not comfortable re-balancing the budget by $228,150.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Jones said with council just approving the budget last month, the savings weren’t identified.
“Typically some of it’s coming from the contingency funds; some of it is coming from other areas,” Propst said.
Jones said he remembers specifically asking if the city had a contingency fund that they would be anticipating at the end of the fiscal year.
Mayor Deanna Reed and Councilmen George Hirschmann, Sal Romero and Jones voted in favor of the reallocation. Councilman Richard Baugh was absent.
About $95,000 of the reallocated money will go toward Westover Pool improvements, $400,000 to the HVAC project at the Rockingham County Jail and $640,000 for the Martin Luther King Jr. Way bridge project.
Propst said with the bridge project, the city is still $400,000 short, which the city will have to budget into the next fiscal cycle.
Another $10,000 will go toward Fire Station 4.
City documents say that the reallocation will also move around $166,393 from the MLK Jr. Way improvement hotel-conference center project to the MLK Jr. Way bridge project with the General Capital Project Fund.
In other news, with a 4-0 vote, council approved reallocating $200,000 to the Harrisonburg City Public Schools.
Propst said the city school division is requesting the amount be transferred from its transportation function into instructional, administration, maintenance and technology functions to finish out the fiscal year.
He said this is a common thing that happens at the end of the year for school districts.
Voting in favor was Reed, Romero, Hirschmann and Jones.
Council will transfer $80,000 to cover the division’s share of the roof and public address system replacement costs at the Massanutten Technical Center.
Also, $50,000 will go to administration, attendance and health function to cover increased cost of legal fees, according to city documents.
About $20,000 will be used to repave the entrance to Thomas Harrison Middle School and $50,000 to purchase Advanced Malware, protection software and Chromebooks for dual language classes.
Also during the meeting, Executive Director of the Rockingham-Harrisonburg SPCA, Huck Nawaz, gave council an update on the local shelter, comparing this year to last.
He said the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA has played a big role in the progress the local SPCA has had by taking animals through transfer. There has been a 115% increase in transfers.
In the first five months of this year, pet intakes were up 30%, which is equal to about 250 animals. Over the last three years, there had been a decline in intakes, Nawaz said.
“The leading source of intakes is stray cats coming into our care, both from city and county,” he said.
Adoptions have risen by 35%, according to a PowerPoint by Nawaz. Returns to owner are up 30% and the euthanasia is down 12%.
Although the Tuesday meeting was only an hour long, Romero said that the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance staff requested that their part of the agenda, which is special event application requests, be moved to the beginning of the meeting. In past meetings, HDR staff had to wait until around 11 p.m. to present agenda items.
Romero also said that a number of residents have requested that public meeting be moved back to the beginning of the meeting, “especially as our meetings continue to be longer and it’s just difficult for people to be here two, three and sometimes four hours sometimes and to be able to be heard regarding anything they want to provide.”
City Clerk Pamela Ulmer said in a previous interview that council changed the public comment from the beginning to the end of the agenda back in Jan. 24, 2017.
“I would be willing to support that,” Romero said. “I don’t know what the process is like or should be like, but that is something I certainly believe [has] great value — in allowing our community to come and be heard.”