City tables new budget

Published 11:50 pm Friday, September 16, 2011

The proposed 2011-2012 Demopolis city budget fell flat Thursday night.

With multiple concerns about wages and expenses, Councilman Jack Cooley’s motion to approve the budget failed for lack of a second, ensuring the city would start it’s new fiscal year Oct. 1 using its old budget.

“With the concerns that have been voiced, I think it’s best that you all go through it and see what you can change,” said Councilman Thomas Moore who serves on the finance committee and helped craft the proposed budget. “But I truly believe that what we have is the best we can do.”

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This year’s proposed budget includes revenues of $11.2 million against anticipated expenses of $10.1 million. However, $1.4 million of anticipated revenues is an infusion from city reserves to balance the budget.

Barring anything unforeseen on either side of the balance sheet, Mayor Mike Grayson said he anticipates the city to end next fiscal year with an operating loss of approximately $100,000.

Debate was driven largely by pay increases. The city budgeted no raises this year but the proposed budget includes a $1,000 one-time pay adjustment in lieu of pay raises. A similar measure was enacted last year.

Councilmen Melvin Yelverton and Mitchell Congress said they felt overlooking city raises, especially for the fire department, was both unfair and unwise.

“We’re spending a lot of money and time training these guys so they can go on to other departments and make more money,” Assistant Fire Chief Carl Johnson said of his department.

“It’s hard to train somebody and keep them long enough to reap the benefits. I don’t like that.”

Congress suggested enacting budget proration in order to find funding to support raises.

“The fat from the department’s budget it gone,” Cooley said of trimmings from previous proration. “If you cut them again, you’re talking about cutting jobs and services.”

The revelation that the city’s finances are underwater caused enough concern with Councilman Bill Meador, that he suggested putting the breaks on an estimated $2.2 million bond that would renovate the fire station and allow for paving and other infrastructure improvements.

“I can’t see where that money is coming from,” he said of paying the note. “If we’re going to use reserves, let’s use them on some of these projects – kind of a pay-as-you-go kind of thing – and save ourselves the interest payments.”

The city council will meet again Oct. 6 when it is expected to re-address and possibly pass the budget.