City adopts 2014 budget, discusses hospital funding

Published 7:44 pm Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Demopolis City Council approved a $9.672 million budget for this fiscal year during Thursday’s meeting.

The budget was approved as proposed except for how much of the city’s sales tax revenue is allocated to Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital.

The proposed budget cut the amount to $100,000, down from $125,000.

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Councilman Harris Nelson made a motion to amend the budget and increase funding back to $125,000.

Mayor Mike Grayson said the money has been given for at least 12 years as part of an industrial development deal that was only supposed to last five years.

“We have long passed that,” Grayson said. “The fact that we continue to fund them was a choice. The fact is I wish we could give them $250,000. We had everyone to trim their budgets. … We are getting to the point where we are not cutting fat. We are cutting muscle and bones and vital organs.”

Councilman Bill Meador said he was in favor of keeping the allocation at $100,000 and increasing it if revenue exceeds expectations.

“I’m highly supportive of the hospital and helping them but almost everyone in our allotment sheets have been cut in some regard,” Meador said. “We can go back and add it but we must look out for the city dollars.”

Nelson recommended paying the difference out of the $32,000 surplus budgeted. Doing so will bring the surplus down to approximately $7,000.

“While $25,000 might not be an entire department [at the hospital], it’s probably someone’s job,” Nelson said.

Nelson, Charles Jones Jr., Nathan Hardy and Cleveland Cole voted to increase the hospital’s funding back to where it was this year, while Grayson and Meador voted to keep the amount at the proposed $100,000.

After the vote, Grayson made a motion to restore money given to the University of West Alabama for managing the Demopolis Higher Education Center. That motion died without a second.

The council also approved a revised personnel policy with a couple of amendments.

The first concerned whether or not department heads should conducted a mid-term view during new employee’s probationary period.

Grayson said he polled department heads and most were against adding another formal review for new employees.

“My concern is we are setting up another layer of administrative stuff,” Grayson said. “If they aren’t cutting the mustard, they probably aren’t going to make it through the probationary period.”

The council still voted to add the employee review. Grayson and Meador voted against the change, while Jones, Hardy, Nelson and Cole voted for it.

The other change concerned employees being paid via direct deposit only after 2014. The council amended the policy to not included part-time employees.

In other business, the council took the following actions:

•Grayson congratulated the city on its recent Demopolis In Bloom award.

“This is a team award. We won a national championship so to speak,” Grayson said. “Now the trick is to repeat and win again next year.”

Grayson specifically thanked horticulturist Barbara Blevins and Mike Baker with the public works department for their work.

•Grayson announced a preliminary meeting on the next Highway 80 Songwriters Festival will be held Oct. 17.

•The council approved public assembly requests for the Demopolis High School Homecoming Parade on Oct. 18 and John Essex High School Homecoming Parade on Oct. 11. They also approved another request from the Blackbelt Christian Ministerd Association for a Oct. 30 Fall Festival.

•Terri Williams from AT&T spoke about recent upgrades the company has made in Demopolis, including bring LTE service to customers.