Ken Horn and Manuell Smith met with the other three members of the council to look at the balanced budget proposal. Horn and Smith had not attended four previous called work sessions since walking out of a meeting on Aug. 23.
Smith said he would like to be treated with “the same respect” as the other councilmen, by being allowed more time to examine the budget.
“I think I should be given the same time you all took to look at it,” he said. “That is only professional courtesy.”
Council President Jim Heigl pointed out the council had gone through the budget in public meetings and Smith was invited to all of them.
“You were the one who decided you did not want to come,” Heigl said.
Smith said he believed it was Mayor Sam Wright’s responsibility to present them a budget ready to be voted on. But according to Alabama Code, cities are not required to have an annual budget.
Tracy Roberts, assistant general counsel for the Alabama League of Municipalities, said there were no laws requiring a mayor to prepare a city budget, balanced or otherwise. He said only that budgets were “recommended,” and often the mayor was in the best position to present them.
Roberts also referred to Code 11-43-56, regarding the city council’s responsibilities. The code states, “… the council shall have the management and control of the finances and all of the property, real and personal, belonging to the city or town.”
Horn said he would be voting no on the budget. He said he wanted to see more funding directed to several departments and agencies, including the Police, Fire and Street departments, the city School System, the library, Parks and Recreation and the animal shelter.
Heigl said he believed when it came to taking care of the city’s departments, everyone was on the same page. The council decided to meet with the departments first at its budget sessions to understand what they need for the upcoming fiscal year.
“That is our main responsibility,” Heigl said. “What (funding) was left, we put toward appropriations.”
Heigl, Councilman Walter Jacobson and Councilman Doug Murphree agreed on the amounts presented in the budget at a work session Sept. 2. But council members said Friday they would listen to proposed changes by Smith and Horn.
“(The budget) is not set in stone,” Murphree said.
Smith and Horn left the Aug. 23 work session after Smith read a prepared statement to the mayor and council. Smith said then he believed it was not his or the council’s responsibility to balance the city budget, and he was “going to stop wasting my time until a proper budget is prepared and presented by this mayor to me as a councilperson.”