Prattville – The Prattville City Council held a budget work session at the Doster Center Tuesday evening to discuss Mayor Jim Byard Jr.’s proposal for FY 2009/2010. City department heads, and several citizens were also in attendance.
Byard began the session by addressing and clarifying several items in the budget; i.e., there was a slight decrease in HR because health and dental are now found in the legislative budget, a new sanitation truck was expected any day now, in Engineering, $331,000 was held for street repairs, and the City had applied for grants for a pumper truck and a fire station.
Byard also remarked that the Performing and Creative arts budget had decreased about $350,000 from last year to $287,000 this year and that there were no new community initiatives added to the executive budget.
Councilman Ray Boles then voiced his concerns about not having enough money in a savings account and questioned why the Mayor’s Administrative Assistant’s salary increased with a raise of $9,400 and his Secretary was receiving a raise of $17,000.
“I’m worried that if we have one disaster, we will be wiped out,” said Boles. “We are one step away from being up the creek without a paddle.”
Byard advised Boles that personnel’s salaries should not be discussed in a public place, but went on to explain that actually the salaries in his office had been lowered because the personnel decreased, and added that after Boo Rogers left, the Executive Assistant classification was changed to the lower classification of Administrative Assistant.
“I only have one full-time and one part-time working in my outer office now,” Byard remarked. “My Administrative Assistant is paid in the $48,000 range and that’s a budgeted number. I am going to make some changes in my office and have not determined yet what is going to happen.”
Boles said that he wished to propose budget amendments during the next City Council meeting to require the executive branch (Mayor’s Office) to move the salaries back in line to where they were last year.
The councilman continued by saying he would suggest that they take the $308,000 that is budgeted to the Chamber of Commerce and give it to the High Point Town Center until they can fill the stores in that mall.
“We’re paying $1 million on it right now,” Boles said. “Every penny is going to High Point.”
“I propose that we cut 10% of the community initiatives, with the exception of the Montgomery Area Mental Health and the LPGA, and that would add about $89,000 to savings.”
Privatizing computer services to save $100,000 and cutting Arts were also suggestions made by the councilman.
“Arts should go first,” Boles remarked. “We should go by what we need, not what we want.”
Next Councilman Willie Wood Jr. mentioned that 82% of the budget consisted of salaries and benefits and if you take that away, the city just comes to a halt.
Councilman Mike Renegar disagreed with Boles about his proposal to cut the Chamber of Commerce’s budget.
“I’m not going to vote to cut the Chamber,” Renegar stated. “If we don’t maintain cultural arts which is a way of life here, then who are we?”
Also disagreeing with some of the suggestions made by Boles was Councilman Nathan Fank.
“There is no reason to cut the Chamber’s budget,” said Fank. “There is not a quick sales fix for the city… they have a long, tedious job.”
“I will also not support cutting community initiatives. That is the reason why a lot of people come to this community.”
Council President Dean Argo agreed with Renegar and Fank and added that a city cannot be run like a business because it is a provider of services.
“The city does an outstanding job, too,” said Argo. “Sure, we have to tighten our belts and make sure we have enough money to meet our needs, but cutting the Chamber’s budget would be disastrous.”
Although there were some disagreements that were voiced during the session, Byard thought the work session ran smoothly.
“I think everything went pretty well,” Byard said, after the session. “I mean, as far as budget meetings go, this one was nothing out of the ordinary.”
The Council will continue the matter of the budget at the next scheduled meeting on Tuesday, September 15.
Article by Melissa Parker
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