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After requesting last month that the budget authority debate be delayed so that he can look at the legal issues surrounding the dispute, City Attorney Mike Aguirre released a legal opinion Friday.

In his opinion, Aguirre said that the City Council cannot delegate its own legislative authorities, such as setting the city’s budget, to the mayor. But he stops short of siding with the council on this very contentious issue.

Instead, Aguirre proposes the creation of an Appropriations Adjustment Committee to study the debate and recommend rules that the council could codify in city law. The goal, Aguirre said, would be to “enable the Mayor to implement the policy of the Council with maximum flexibility to achieve efficiency and cost savings.” And, because he says there is no bright line rule for handling the issue, that each budget decision be assessed on a case-by-case basis in the meantime.

The panel would be comprised of council members, their independent budget analyst, the Mayor’s Office and the City Attorney’s Office.

In an interview this morning, Mayor Jerry Sanders said Aguirre’s memo more closely resembled a “policy recommendation” than a legal opinion and was untimely, coming just days before the months-long debate is being finalized.

“I certainly respect Mike, but starting up a new committee is a policy decision,” Sanders said. “We already have worked this out and it’s time we moved forward.”

Sanders and some council members are supporting legislation that would require cuts of $4 million or 10 percent of a department’s budget to be reviewed by the council, while others want any cut that “materially and substantially” reduces services to require council approval.

The council heard an hour’s worth of public comment on the debate this morning, and they will resume the hearing this afternoon at 2 p.m.


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