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Less revenue, more cuts to 2014-15 C’ton budget

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By Jeff Moore

Carrollton City Council made cuts to its proposed 2014-15 spending plans Tuesday, March 11, by agreeing to delay purchase of a new fire truck, reduce a requested increase in the mayor’s salary and remove funds to purchase a city trolley.

Council had the fire department’s request fresh on their mind at the start of the meeting after looking at a truck earlier in the day that Daviess County had purchased. The E-One pumper carries a price tag of $385,000.

Mayor Gene McMurry said he had worked with First National Bank of Carrollton to borrow $300,000 over three years at 1 percent interest to help fund that purchase.

But Councilman Mike Gordon said he believes the city needs to wait until after the campground is paid off to make any big-ticket purchases.

Councilman Dwight Loudon agreed. Loudon pointed out that after the campground is paid off the city could purchase the truck without having to take on additional debt.

The $300,000 annual payment on the campground project will be completed by 2016, meaning those funds will be available in the 2016-17 budget, McMurry confirmed after the meeting.

This reduction came after council talked about the revenue it expects to receive in the coming fiscal year.

The proposed 2014-15 budget shows city revenues at $3.3 million, down from last year by about $94,000.

Louden expressed concern that the city could see its revenue decline even further because of long-term contracts that Carrollton Utilities negotiated with several local industries.

Next budget year, the city expects to garner $1.02 million from the TEAC gas project.

McMurry said that amount would drop by about $150,000 in the 2015-16 budget year because those contract rates guarantee industry will purchase their gas from Carrollton Utilities over the long term.

Other revenue categories in the proposed budget are projected to remain close to the levels received in the current year, according to projections.

Council then moved on to the administrative budget, where discussion focused on McMurry’s proposal to raise the mayor’s salary by $20,000 to $48,360.

McMurry said serving as the city mayor is a full-time job, but it carries only a part-time salary and no benefits.

The increase, which would take effect with the next mayor elected this November, is needed because a younger person taking the job would need this salary and benefits to do the job.

Council shot down the request.

“I would be opposed to a 70 percent increase,” Gordon said. “I can’t see the sense in that. I can’t see it.”

Louden said he’s believed for years the city needs someone full-time. However, he said Carrollton should hire a professional city administrator, which is allowed under the current form of government.

“The mayor would do all of the political things,” he said, but no longer be responsible for the day-to-day responsibilities.

Councilwoman Ann Deatherage said she doesn’t agree with either option, based on the city having more than 50 percent of its housing as rental property.

Without changing its form of government, Deatherage said, Carrollton’s mayor can only be part-time and cannot receive city benefits. She cited a state law called “home rule” that restricts the position to part-time pay without benefits.

McMurry said he works about 50 hours a week as mayor. “If you want to get the money for grants, you have to be there,” he said. He argued that the pay does need to be more reasonable.

Council agreed to increase the mayor’s pay. But by 3 percent — the same increase that city workers will receive in the coming year.

Gordon said he “highly objected” to the proposed 70 percent increase. Deatherage said she would support a 4 or 5 percent increase if the city had its debts paid off.

Councilwoman Hayley Franklin agreed with Gordon, Louden and Deatherage on including the 3 percent raise for the mayor in the budget.

Council also removed a $35,000 line item to purchase a trolley for the city. Members said they didn’t believe this was the year to make the purchase and that the city isn’t ready for one now.

A committee headed by Deborah Garrett has worked on the trolley project for more than a year as a way to bring tourists from General Butler State Resort Park and other hotels to the downtown for shopping and events.

The administrative budget was originally proposed at $1.13 million for 2014-15, before any reductions were made Tuesday, which is down from the projected $1.437 million that department expects to spend in the current budget year.

 

Public works

The public works department budget projects a $38,000 increase over the current year, coming in at $610,040 for 2014-15.

Department head Ronnie Knight said his budget was down by $24,000, but that increased power bills for streetlights and traffic lights pushed it back up by about $20,000.

McMurry suggested that public works look at replacing its lights with LED lights, which can cut power bills by a third to a half.

Knight said he is working on options to capture this savings.

The public works budget includes two equipment purchases — a zero turn mower at $8,349 and a Rotary brand truck lift at $16,435.

Council agreed to keep both items in their proposed budget.

 

Code enforcement

City code enforcement officer John Welch will be getting a different vehicle in the new year, but not the truck he hoped to purchase.

City council removed the $15,000 that Welch included for the vehicle in his budget request.

Instead, Gordon suggested that he replace the car he has now with one of the cruisers that the police department will retire this year with its new purchase.

Welch will get a new computer, however. Council agreed to keep his request for $1,050 for the HP computer and monitor in its spending proposal.

Welch said his computer won’t handle the latest software for consolidating maps and is extremely slow. With the new computer he can upgrade to the latest version of Ersi City Engine software that allows entering all data on the zoning and can produce three-dimensional images to determine what will meet requirements.

This will work well with height requirements and other changes that come with mixed use zoning, he said.

The software will run about $2,000, according to his budget request forms.

Because the truck was cut, council agreed to include $1,000 in his vehicle maintenance budget for his replacement car.

Welch had requested a budget of $77,056, but saw that reduced to $63,056.

 

Campground

Expenses for the campground are expected to be about $45,709 in fiscal year 2014-15, down by about $4,000 from the current year.

McMurry said the budget includes 8 percent of Knight’s salary and covers the cost of a part-time worker who mows for public works.

But not all of the expenses tied to the campground made the budget. In response to questions from Louden and Gordon, McMurry said some repairs and maintenance costs ended up in the public works budget.

“I’d like to know how much we’re spending down there,” Louden said.

McMurry said he would work with Knight to have them code hours to assign those costs to the campground.

Council also questioned the discounts that are given to many of those staying at the campground.

Gordon said he believes they need to stick to the $200 weekly rate and not offer discounts, which means the city only gets about $179 a week.

McMurry said that they have been providing the discount due to the online offers the city has published.

But Gordon said people are getting those even if they don’t qualify for them.

Council agreed to stick with the $35 to $40 dollar per day rate and the $200 a week rate for the next year.