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City departments asked to prioritize budget ‘wish lists’

City department heads will be asked to prioritize budget “wishlist” items as Brookhaven officials ponder revenue and spendingplans for next year.

Officials cut short a budget work session Tuesday night afterbeing unable to reach conclusions on department equipment needs.Department heads’ input will be sought during next Tuesday’sregular meeting, and aldermen will take another look at the budgetduring a special meeting on Thursday, Sept. 4.

The proposed budget discussed last night anticipates $6.8million in revenue and, depending on pay raise action,approximately $7.5 million in expenditures. City Clerk Iris RudmanSmith told aldermen there is enough carryover revenue from thisyear to cover next year’s deficit, but there is no money in the newbudget for equipment or paving.

“There’s just not a lot of difference in that there’s not muchwe can do,” Smith said about revenue expectations next year.

The new budget calls for no property tax levy increase.

Granting wish list requests could add as much as $780,000 tonext year’s budget, according to one figure mentioned lastnight.

That money could virtually wipe out the city’s “rainy day fund”or it would have to be found elsewhere. Smith said she tries tomaintain a cash reserve of around $800,000 in order for the city tooperate in the event of emergencies.

Going briefly into department wish list requests, aldermenapproved a plan to lease purchase five patrol cars for the policedepartment. Mayor Bill Godbold said that would be a good move inanticipation of city expansion.

“I feel like he needs them or he wouldn’t have asked for them,”Smith said about Police Chief Pap Henderson’s request.

The discussion stalled when other departments’ requests wereconsidered and the $780,000 price tag was mentioned.

“We don’t have that kind of money,” Smith said.

Aldermen approved putting $125,000 in the budget to purchaseadditional industrial park land that has been under option for thelast two years. The city’s funds are expected to come from Wal-Martbond revenue and be matched by about $95,000 from the IndustrialDevelopment Foundation and its recent land sales.

Officials are considering 3 and 5 percent raises for cityemployees, including elected officials. No decision on raises wasmade last night.

Ward 4 Alderman Bob Massengill pointed out rising healthinsurance premiums in relation to pay raises. The city’s healthinsurance is scheduled to go up 24.7 percent next year.

“I just wonder, with health insurance going up, if we can giveraises,” Massengill said.

Five percent raises are estimated to cost around $180,000 while3 percent raises would cost about $150,000.

Ward 5 Alderman Tom Smith cited the benefits of the city’shealth insurance. The city pays all the premium for employees andmost of the costs for their dependents.

“Good insurance is worth more to me than a raise would be,”Smith said.

Alderman at large Les Bumgarner suggested giving 3 percentraises but raising the amount employees pay for dependent insurancecoverage from $55 a month to $100. The effect that would have onemployee take-home pay was not known Tuesday night.

City officials are expected to continue work on the budget andapprove one at a special meeting on Sept. 15. The new fiscal yearstarts Oct. 1.