By Ross Markman
Bob Rice wants to be kept in the loop.
Monday night, Havre's mayor told members of the city Finance Committee that he's changing the way city departments propose their annual budgets.
"It's too late now for this year. The wheels have turned," he said. "I just don't like sitting down at a meeting and not knowing what's being talked about."
Havre's mayor has no input on the budget process, Rice said. The city's department heads police, fire, city court, public works, and parks and recreation make their annual proposals directly to the City Council's finance committee.
"I want to take a look at what the department heads submit before it's submitted. There may be things I want to question," Rice said. "And I don't think it's appropriate to question my department heads in front of the City Council."
Council member Tom Farnham, who chairs the finance committee, said Rice's request is a reasonable one.
"That's no problem. I don't see any problem with that," he said.
"What he's asking is if he could see some of the requests before we bring them to the table," Farnham added today. "Bob's new, and he'd like to look at them. It's just one of these things he'd like to do."
Rice is in the first year of a four-year term as mayor.
According to city clerk and finance director Lowell Swenson, the budget process has worked the same way for at least 17 years, his tenure working for the city.
At Monday's meeting, city aquatics director Chris Inman requested that $5,646 be spent replacing 17 windows in the boys' and girls' locker rooms at the community pool on Sixth Avenue. She also asked that about $15,000 be allocated to regrout and repaint the pool by 2004-05.
City parks and recreation director Dave Wilson requested that $17,000 be spent to buy a new aerator and $5,300 be used to install new, caged bleachers at Lions Park in Havre's east end. He also asked for a total of $8,000 to be saved during the next two years to purchase a new lawn mower.
Wilson also requested the city set aside $10,000 for the construction of a skateboard park in Havre, a project he estimated to cost between $150,000 and $200,000.
Public works director Dave Peterson asked the city to spend an additional $500 on yellow signs to be placed around schools. The city spent $1,500 last year on the signs, which were installed at Sunnyside Intermediate School.
Peterson also requested that $4,300 go toward the purchase of a street striper, $1,700 for a new office computer, and $7,500 for a jackhammer attachment.
Rice, meanwhile, said the budget procedure will change in July when fiscal year 2002-03 begins. He doesn't feel the change is a drastic one.
"It's not interfering with anything. It's just giving me a heads-up," he said.
Before he was elected, Rice said, he would call the mayor to voice his concerns about budget items, mainly because he didn't know how the process worked.
"Most people think the mayor has a big influence on the budget. That's not the case," he said. "So if people are going to chew on my butt, I want to have some control over it."
The City Council will vote on a final version of the budget on Aug. 12.