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Board members get first glimpse at draft budget

Aldermen have seen a first draft of a budget for next fiscal year that includes no raises for city workers, but employment costs proved a major point of discussion Tuesday night.

     City Clerk Mike Jinks presented alderman with a projected budget for next year to use as a starting point for budget talks. The preliminary general fund budget projects expenses to outpace revenue by $740,790 in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

     “You’ve got to do some cutting or raise some taxes,” Mayor Les Bumgarner said.

     However, Jinks reminded aldermen last year’s budget also predicted revenue to fall under expenses, but he said the city is running a surplus right now. Any surplus from this year can be used to make up for any projected deficit next year.

     Jinks said he tries to overestimate costs.

     The draft budget includes no raises for any city employees, and aldermen didn’t seem in a hurry to put them in.

     “This might be the year, David: no raises, no equipment,” said Ward Three Alderman Terry Bates, referencing prior opposition by Ward Six Alderman David Phillips to raises for city employees.

     However, aldermen did express concern after discussing reports that some city employees are being paid more than department heads after their overtime pay is accounted for.

     “Sounds like we need to get a handle on overtime,” said Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell.

     Bumgarner said he’s looked into it, but there seems to be no way to avoid overtime, particularly in the street and water departments.

     “We don’t have any wasted overtime, I believe,” Bumgarner said.

     Department heads are in charge of approving overtime for all employees they supervise.

     The city is also looking to add an assistant superintendent for the Street Department, a post that’s been vacant three years, Jinks said. City leaders also want to employ a code enforcement officer, a post that wasn’t filled last year though money was appropriated for it.

     Money will need to be allocated for both these positions.

     The city also needs a new assistant superintendent in the Water Department, but that won’t require any new funds as the position has been filled.

     In other news related to employment costs, Jinks said he’s been told the city’s insurance cost will not go up this year.

     In talking about the city utilities, the need was discussed to raise water and sewer rates 50 cents apiece. Bates voiced support for gradual increases on city utility services annually to avoid the need for dramatic increases of several dollars at once periodically.

     There was some brief discussion of dropping to one day of garbage pickup, but Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes said she thought families with multiple children might object to that.

     Phillips said Waste Management will present the city with several options for a new contract.

     Alderman at Large Karen Sullivan also requested $15,000 be appropriated to renovate the Monticello Street entrance to Rosehill Cemetery. There were no objections to the idea.

     Aldermen were expected to have another work session on the new year budget Thursday. The city’s new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.