City Council to vote on deficit budget today
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA – The City Council is holding a special called meeting at 11 a.m. today to vote on a deficit budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

At a called work session Thursday, the council asked for changes to the proposed budget that turned a $36,250 surplus into a deficit of $411,650.

The council held a called meeting to vote on the budget following the work session, but tabled the item until today to allow Councilman Walter Jacobson, who was not at the meeting, to participate and to make the necessary budget adjustments.

Mayor Jim Heigl said he is not in favor of a deficit budget, particularly when the budget he presented the council had a comfortable surplus.

“You can’t count the birds in the bush,” Heigl said. “Maybe I’m being too conservative, but the presented budget was based on a three-year average, and we know what we have coming in.”

A majority of the deficit is created by a 5 percent cost-of-living raise for city employees requested by Council President Manuell Smith. The increase is in addition to regular step raises and includes all city, library and hourly Parks and Recreation employees.

“As much as we appropriate to entities in our city, and they can give themselves raises, I don’t think it’s right for our employees not to have a raise and other people who are attached to our city get a raise,” Smith said.

He said 5 percent across the board would curb complaints about unfair step raises.

“When I first came on the council, people were ticked off because they felt the step raises were top heavy,” Smith said. “Those in the foxhole, more or less, didn’t get as much money. The step raise and the 5 percent should make people happy, and hopefully a happy worker will be a better worker, and we’ll get even more done in our city.”

Mayor-elect Doug Murphree said the city should stay in line with its regular step-raise plan.

“I don’t have a problem giving raises, but we have a step plan in place, and if we deviate from that, it will cause problems later on,” Murphree said. “We’ve got to be realistic.”

Councilman Ken Horn agreed with the 5 percent raises and said the city could afford it, as it has a reserve of $529,500 and new industry coming in. City Clerk Patricia Carden said the money in reserves cannot necessarily be used for the general fund, however.

“We draw from the reserve and put it back in,” she said. “We have depleted the general fund reserve, and the reserves we have are earmarked. We have had to fall back on reserves to operate this year when the money didn’t come in.”

Other changes to the presented budget included an additional $115,000 in capital expenditures for police vehicles and equipment, and increased funds to allow for three captain promotions and a part-time position for the Fire Department.

Appropriations were level-funded with the exception of the Boys Club, Animal Rescue Foundation, Comer Museum, EMA and the County Drug Task Force. The Boys Club was raised from $3,600 to $10,000; ARF was raised from $29,000 to $90,000; Comer Museum was increased by $400; and the EMA and Drug Task Force each received their requested amounts, which totaled an extra $12,000.

City departments will receive $10,645,170; B.B. Comer Library will get $603,720; and Parks and Recreation gets $812,075. The raises and other adjustments in these areas account for an approximate increase of $116,295 over last year’s budget.

Overall, the budget projects expenditures of $13,514,615 and revenues of $13,102,960.

The only other action taken during Thursday’s called meeting was to approve payments and accounts payable for September totaling $165,896.83.

Contact Emily Adams at eadams@dailyhome.com.

© 2012