Bowie budget, rate proposals adopted amidst angry debate

The Bowie City Council met in called session tonight to consider water and wastewater rates that were tabled Monday night, along with adoption of the 2018-19 budget, also tabled.

There was tremendous tension in the meeting with more than a dozen people present in the audience, several obviously upset the city council was considering a rate increase in any area. The mayor pointed out public comments were not listed on the agenda.

Councilor Craig Stallcup reiterated his arguments from Monday against any rate increase if it is not offset with a similar decrease in electric. Things became very tense between him and City Manager Bert Cunningham when he was asked to tell the councilor why the rate increase was necessary. Cunningham said the goal was to make water and sewer begin to fund themselves, as well as work on infrastructure. He said he has explained the philosophy =several times, but Stallcup either does not agree or understand. Stallcup said there is no financial justification for the tax or water rate hikes, which will provide nominal funds to the budget.

Councilor Arlene Bishop, also adamantly against the rate proposals and the budget plans to borrow money to buy some heavy equipment for big projects and other capital equipment for the city, demanded to go into executive session to discuss a salary issue she had discovered. Mayor Gaylynn Burris asked why that was necessary at this time and Bishop said she wants to know why they are reimbursing the city manager for his insurance. Burris convened into executive session that last about six minutes. No action was taken back in regular session.

The council approved on tie votes the proposed rate structures for water and wastewater. Councilors Bishop, Stallcup and Machelle Mills voted no, with Terry Gunter, Wayne Bell and Chuck Malone voting yes. Burris broke the tie with a yes vote.

The budget proposal was approved with Bishop the lone no vote. Stallcup said he believes it is a good budget, a “bold budget,” and there are a lot of good things that can come out of it. However, the only thing he is ashamed of is the rates, adding it is the first time has has “been ashamed to be on the council.”

Watch for mid-week News for full coverage. A second called meeting is planned for Tuesday night, which will allow for the required reading of the rate and budget ordinances.