New council member learns city’s fiscal duties  

Published 7:54 pm Thursday, December 21, 2017


Washington’s new City Council member, Roland Wyman, got a taste of city budget preparations and how the city operates during his meeting with city department heads and City Manager Bobby Roberson on Tuesday.

“We really appreciate Mr. Wyman coming over. This is an opportunity for us to tell you a little big about how we operate the city. We’ve got a great time here. They’ve got a lot of experience. They’ve done a great job for us,” Roberson told Wyman. “The most important thing is how the organization operates.”

“The other important thing that we’re involved in — we call it the planning retreat. A lot of people are saying it’s the same thing we did two or three years ago. This staff needs direction. One of the things that we do not want to do, if the council thinks we should be going in direction A, and we’re going in direction B, that’s a conflict,” Roberson said. “We need the council to give us — the city manager, the city clerk and the rest of the department heads — direction about what they would like to get accomplished. We usually implement that through the budget process. … We like to have direction about the process that we’re headed in.”

Roberson told Wyman the city’s already sent out forms to outside agencies and economic-development groups that usually request money from the city to help operate their programs. Roberson noted the council in recent years has, generally, reduced those allocations. The current city budget reflects a 20-percent decrease in funding for most of those outside agencies when compared to the previous city budget. “I don’t know what the council wants to do in the upcoming budget,” Roberson said.

Wyman said the 2018-2019 budget-preparation schedule adopted by the council at its Dec. 11 meeting “looks fine to me.”

Wyman was informed that North Carolina law requires the city to have a balanced budget. “The state mandates that,” Roberson said. Local governments are required to adopt a budget each year by June 30.

“There have been situations, very few, I think, in Washington, where they can go to an interim budget. It’s regulated by the North Carolina General Assembly,” Roberson said. “For example, if the council cannot agree on a budget and they are back and forth and June 30 trips in and they roll into July, then they can go to an interim budget, which means, basically, we’re just going to pay salaries. No other purchase orders can be generated. We’re going to pay the outstanding purchase orders that were generated prior June 30, but we’re not going to buy anything.”

Once a local government adopts an interim budget, it has 90 days to adopt a regular budget.

Wyman asked for clarification on the “at-will” staff members. Roberson explained that he, City Clerk Cynthia Bennett and City Attorney Franz Holscher are the three at-will employees, meaning they serve at the pleasure of the council. The council appoints them to their positions.











About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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