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City Council divided on spending amount for ward-related projects in 2024 budget

Following Monday's City Council meeting, councilmembers passed an amendment to the budget allocating $20,000 for each Ward.

Cheyenne City Council at their May 23 meeting / Zoom Screenshot.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Cheyenne City Council members want to allocate funds toward ward-related projects in the 2024 fiscal year budget, but are divided on how much each region should get.

The council is currently in the process of reviewing the 2024 proposed budget report, which determines how much funding city departments and projects will receive for the next fiscal year. The mayor, city treasurer and department directors begin compiling budget reports in January. The reports need to undergo multiple budget work sessions, amendments and readings by the council before they can be approved in June.

At the May 17 Committee of the Whole meeting, an amendment was made to the budget report that would allocate $60,000 for ward improvement projects, including vegetation management and sidewalk replacement. The money would come from the $184,445 left in miscellaneous reserve funds, with each ward receiving $20,000. Another amendment was made during the meeting for the council to utilize all the reserve funds, allocating each Ward roughly $61,000 instead. In order for either amendment to move forward, they needed to be discussed and voted on by the City Council.

During the council’s Monday meeting, member Richard Johnson, who previously voted in favor of utilizing the $184,445, said he would not support the amendment this time. Johnson said he wants some of the money to be set aside for the council to attend conventions and conferences.

“I really didn’t support this as far as full transfer to ward contingency funds because the council generally does not have expenditures for conventions and conferences we wish to go to,” he said during the meeting.

Councilmember Pete Laybourn agreed with Johnson that the council could benefit from “education opportunities.” The topic could be dealt with at a later date, though, Laybourn said, and he is in favor of utilizing all the reserve funds to help the council focus on ward projects.

The amendment to allocate all $184,445 failed 4–4, with Councilmembers Tom Segrave, Scott Roybal, Mark Rinne and Johnson voting against it. In the instance of a tie, the mayor can opt to vote. Mayor Patrick Collins said he wouldn’t, however, because the item concerns ward-related expenses.

With that amount failing to pass, the council then discussed allocating only $20,000 to each ward.

Johnson said he supported this amount. The amount can be used as “seed money,” Johnson said, and the representative could encourage community fundraisers for projects. The council has done this in the past for the downtown Splash Pad, he said.

“I think this has a motive to use as a seed money or as a backend to make these projects succeed with a lot more community involvement,” he said during the meeting.

Councilmember Michelle Aldrich, who is in favor of using the full reserve amount, said she is “severely disappointed” at the $20,000. If the ward representatives want to take on projects like redoing sidewalks, Aldrich said, that amount won’t be enough to cover the expenses. Community members might not want to fund those “less fun or exciting” projects, she added.

“I believe that what we’ve now put ourselves in [is] a situation of putting … expectations that we won’t be able to meet in our wards with just $20,000,” she said during the meeting.

Roybal, who is for the $20,000, said the council has operated on this amount “for years” and he sees no reason to change. If the wards need more project money during the 2024 fiscal year, the council can always pull from the $124,445 that will be left in the reserves after the $60,000 transfers over.

“Let’s start and see what it covers,” he said. “If it does, great; if it doesn’t, we still have a pool of money to fall back on.”

The amendment passed with Aldrich being the only one voting against it.

The following amendments to the city’s budget made during the Committee of the Whole meeting were also approved on second reading:

  • Adding $128,000 to the proposed budget to be used for a Vehicle Exhaust Removal System, which will keep Cheyenne firefighters from breathing the exhaust from the fire engines running in the bays.
  • Adding $50,000 to help the Nuisance Committee, which is under the city’s Compliance Department.
  • Adding $127,280 to help the Cheyenne Park Division, — which is under the Community Recreation and Event Department — maintain public parking lots.