City tables city budget for review

Published 11:06 pm Friday, October 21, 2011

The City of Demopolis will close the first month of its new fiscal year without passing a new budget.

The council voted Thursday night to further study several budget revisions that could include eliminating several expenditures.

The council will review several cuts and changes which include Councilman Bill Meador’s recommendation that the city hold off on engaging another bond for road improvements and fire station renovations as well as the elimination of a $1,000 one-time pay adjustment for each of the city’s 91 full-time employees. Meador also recommended travel expense allocations for the mayor and council be trimmed.

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Councilman Thomas Moore further recommended that a $125,000 expense allocated to the hospital for a 1-cent sales tax be removed.

“That should come out only because it has expired,” Moore added.

Moore, who is a member of the city’s three-person finance committee, has long contended that the proposed budget was sound, even though it projected a deficit at the coming year’s end.

The suggestion to hold off on fire station renovations and road improvements drew the ire of Councilman Mitchell Congress who said he would be reluctant to agree to any bond issue that didn’t include the two projects. The city has a note payment coming due at year’s end that is anticipated to be part of the proposed bond issue.

Congress further noted a lack of fluid information coming with regard to issues he has with departmental expenses.

“There’s no transparency,” he said. “We see the numbers but there’s no explanation.”

The council engaged in an hour-plus-long debate and discussion that included the use of reserve funding and the perception that city leaders have mismanaged funds.

“We’re not going broke,” Councilman Jack Cooley said. “This city is in good financial shape.”

Cooley cited nearly $750,000 that has been socked away in reserves the past three years with last fiscal year being the first time the city had to dip into reserves.

The council will reconvene next month in an attempt to pass the budget. Until that time, the city and its departments will operate under the guidelines of the 2010-2011 budget.