Mayor Bill Middleton declines to sign off on the budget saying he wanted to see cuts put forward by each department

Despite protests by Sherwood’s mayor and some last-minute pleas from the public to postpone passage of the city’s $40.3 million budget, the budget passed 5-1 Tuesday night.

But not before Mayor Bill Middleton and several city residents said they had issues with how and where some of the money was being spent.

While passage of Sherwood city budgets are generally quiet affairs with only a minimum of input from the public, the council chambers were jam-packed with residents, many who were there to express their displeasure with a planned Walmart store.

The budget, which included a $9.7-million general fund, called for the elimination of the equivalent of two full-time staff positions. Last year’s general fund was $9 million.

One resident, Jennifer Harris of the Sherwood Community Action Committee, said several other residents had spent time reviewing the budget and requested a third-party review by a certified public accountant before the budget was approve. She also asked that the budget be audited.

Several complained that the city’s finance director, Craig Gibons, wasn’t a certified public accountant and asked that the next person to fill that slot have that certification. (City officials have previously pointed out that being a CPA was not a requirement of the job.)

In discussing the proposed budget, Gibons, who will soon leave the city for another job, said the budget had been thoroughly vetted by the Sherwood Budget Committee, a group composed of seven citizen members along with the seven members of the Sherwood City Council.

“I think things are in better shape than they were four years ago,” said Gibons.

Julie Blums, the city’s accounting supervisor, said the budget receives an annual audit, with the city’s budget held to a higher standard than the city is legally required to.

Meanwhile, Mayor Middleton made it clear during the evening that he would not support the budget, having previously asked to go line-by-line to determine areas where cuts could be made.

“I tend to agree with some people who say we are staff driven,” said Middleton. “I think we need to live within our means.”

Councilor Linda Henderson said she was satisfied with the budget, saying the Budget Committee consists of a diverse representation.

“Is it a perfect budget? No. It’s never going to be a perfect budget,” said Henderson, who praised Gibons for making improvements to the budget over the years.

She also questioned why Middleton hadn’t expressed an interest in holding off on passing the budget when the two recently met.

Middleton said the new budget provided for no maintenance of city parks and questioned why three people were promoted in six months in one department. The mayor, who said he’s drawn up numerous budgets during his professional life, said he felt he was pushed to support the city’s budget by the city council.

“I was railroaded,” he said.

However, the council declined to increase city system development charges, or SDCs, which are fees paid by developers to provide funding to improve local infrastructure. Middleton said the city’s SDCs are among the highest in the state and he was opposed to any fee increases. As a result, the council turned down a planned 4 percent increase of those fees with Councilor Matt Langer recusing himself on the vote.

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