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City budget planning in home stretch

The Brookhaven Board of Aldermen may be almost finished withlaying out the 2010-11 budget after Thursday night’s public hearingand work session, and the issue of worker pay is expected to be onthe table once more.

The public is invited at 5:30 p.m. at the city boardroom in theLincoln County/ Brookhaven Government Complex to weigh in on thecity’s expenditures for the next year. The general fund budget isexpected to be around $10.3 million dollars, said City Clerk MikeJinks, with the water fund around $2.18 million and the solid wastenumbers falling at about $1.36 million.

Jinks said the numbers are down a little from the revised 2009-10budget of $11.45 million, but the difference is in grant funds thatcame through last year and are not budgeted for this year.

“We’re finishing a lot of projects and we won’t have those revenuesor expenditures. They make a wash but they show up on the budget,”Jinks said.

Police salary has been a sticking point, as a recent perceived risein crime has put the issue of beefing up community protection underthe microscope. Brookhaven Police Chief Pap Henderson asked theboard for a 15 percent raise in order to bring his employees’salaries up to a competitive level so that it will be easier forhim to obtain and keep qualified officers.

Jinks said it’s hard to tell what the aldermen will do with thechief’s request, or with the other 5 percent raises that have beenbudgeted across the board.

“There are lots of times people don’t get what they want,” Jinkssaid. “In the city’s situation, you get what you can afford. ButI’m not going to even guess what they’re going to do onsalaries.”

That across-the-board raise also includes aldermen salaries. Thealdermen currently make $15,917.28 a year each, and another 5percent would bring that to $16.713.14.

Jinks pointed out that he simply puts in the raise across theboard, and it falls to city officials to decide if it stays.

“When I worked up the worksheets I just did everybody. They have topull it out if they want to pull it out, or change it if they wantto change it,” he said. “What I present is not what they decide,they have to approve the raises. They can’t just say, ‘We approvethe budget as presented,’ without at some point approving how theraises were made.”

Jinks said the board has to approve all new hirings, firings, andsalary increases before they can approve the entire budget.

The only other point aldermen have stalled on so far during budgetwork sessions has been the funding for the recreation department,with Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates taking issue with additionalfunding because he is dissatisfied with activities at the Dr. A.L.Lott Sports Complex.

“The only discussions we’ve had other than the recreationdepartment has been discussions on salary, they haven’t questionedanything else other than salary,” Jinks said.

He said hopefully the work session following the budget hearingwill be the last one for the year, but it’s hard to tell.

“The last one we’ve got scheduled so far, but there are a lot offactors to determine if it will be the last one or not,” he said.”If they agree on what’s presented then this will be the lastone.”

Aldermen need to have a budget approved by mid-September in timefor the Oct. 1 start of the city’s new fiscal year.