Thursday, November 01, 2007

TOP STORY >>Cabot looks at ’08 budget

Leader staff writer

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams presented council members Monday night with an $8.2 million proposed budget for 2008 that includes a $4,000 salary increase for uniformed employees to keep them from leaving for better paying jobs and a 5 percent increase for non-uniformed employees.

The proposed spending plan also includes $150,000 for five new patrol cars, to enlarge the fleet by two and replace the three that no longer run.

Of the expected $8.2 million income, which is essentially the same as 2007, the mayor expects to spend $7.7 million. The balance of $500,000 would be broken down to revenue investment, $300,000; vehicle and equipment savings $60,000; and carryover to 2009, $169,000.

The mayor passed out copies of his budget to council members at the end of a three-and-a- half hour meeting in which the council agreed upon a new city insurance carrier and also passed an ordinance redistributing the city’s property tax revenue to find the $50,000 needed in 2008 to subsidize MEMS, which provides ambulance service to the city.

He declined to comment about his budget until after the council members meet in a budget committee next week to discuss it. However, the attached forward talked about where the city was when he took office in January and where he hopes to take it in the next three years.

“The city faced tremendous financial challenges in 2007,” the mayor wrote. “The cash balances report showed the city to have $57,170. The outstanding invoices from 2006 totaled near $500,000. Because of deficit spending … each department head was instructed to reduce their budget by 10 percent. Capital expenditures were paid using a loan for which we’ll be making payments for the next five years. This will not happen again using our improved methods of managing city money.

“Through deducing the budget and the department heads and employees’ watchful eyes on expenditures, the city will carry over $400,000 from 2007 and also saved $700,000 in the general fund and $164,000 in the street fund for a total of $864,000.”

Williams also wrote in the forward to his budget that public works will set aside $120,000 in 2008 that could be used either for street overlay or to bring sanitation services in house. And he announced that he wants to give raises to department heads based on merit and asked the council to approve a pot of money for that purpose not to exceed the equivalent of a 5 percent increase for department heads, about $10,000.

“I will distribute that money …based on performance reviews,” the mayor wrote.

The mayor did say that he met extensively with his department heads during the budget-making process and their letters of recommendation were attached to the proposal that the council members received.

Fire Chief Phil Robinson said he was “especially appreciative of the mayor’s plan to increase the pay of police officers and firefighters.”

Police Chief Jackie Davis said he appreciated the proposed salary increases and the new patrol cars.

“I know that you realize that most of the officers who are leaving are seeking higher pay elsewhere,” Davis wrote to the mayor. “As I have stated before, I would rather keep well-qualified officers versus simply more numbers and turnover.”