The Casper City Council shook things up this week, holding a two-day strategic planning workshop at the Casper Events Center in lieu of a typical meeting.
The four-hour brainstorming sessions were intended to help the Council identify various goals for the coming year. Council members largely focused on ways to improve public safety but other matters were also discussed.
City Manager Carter Napier told the Council that he needs direction regarding the city’s budget.
“Am I being too aggressive [with budget cuts] or am I not being aggressive enough?” he asked.
When Napier was hired in June, the Council firmly instructed the new official to rein in spending and reduce the approximately $4 million in reserves being used in the budget.
The city manager proposed an amendment, which the Council approved in November, to the fiscal year 2017-2018 annual appropriations that balanced the budget using a combination of wage freezes, darkening vacant positions and a renegotiated contract.
But Napier told the Council there are still reasons to be concerned about the budget.
Wyoming’s local governments have limited means of raising funds, which leave them largely dependent on appropriations from the state Legislature. Given that the state’s boom-or-bust economy relies heavily on the energy market, local leaders are often uncertain about the level of funding they can expect to receive.
If city leaders want to reduce that dependency on state funds, Napier said budget cuts will need to continue.
The Council did not provide the city manager with a clear direction on the matter this week. Mayor Ray Pacheco said after the meeting that the Council will need to think about the issue and have further discussions before providing a firm answer.
Council members also discussed ways to more effectively run meetings.
Councilman Chris Walsh said council members need to recognize that everyone has different communication styles and some find it suffocating to listen to long-winded speeches.
“Stay on point and stay on the topic at hand,” said Walsh.
Councilman Dallas Laird, who is known for making long remarks, said he was concerned that meetings would become “superficial” if comments and questions had to be shortened.
Although councilmen Jesse Morgan and Shawn Johnson tend to be brief with their remarks, both supported the right of other members to fully voice their views.
“We are the people’s representatives,” said Johnson.
However, Morgan said it is frustrating when he loses the opportunity to speak because a meeting ends abruptly after running over the scheduled time.
The Council ultimately decided not to set time limits, but all members agreed to try and be concise and to focus on the issues at hand.