Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TOP STORY >> Cabot council passes budget without raises

Leader staff writer

It took the Cabot City Council only about a minute Monday night to approve the budget for 2010 without cost-of-living adjustments for elected officials.

Several residents were on hand to hear the unanimous vote that was taken with no discussion and only brief comment from Alderman Eddie Cook, chairman of the budget and personnel committee, who called Mayor Eddie Joe Williams’ $9.2 million budget “one of the easiest I’ve come across.”

Cook had contemplated calling a committee meeting immediately before the council meeting to discuss removing a 3 percent increase for the mayor, city attorney, clerk-treasurer and eight city council members.

No meeting was called, but the matter was apparently resolved beforehand.

Cook said last week that he had received several calls from residents who said that since Social Security recipients aren’t getting a cost-of-living adjustment for 2010, Cabot’s elected officials shouldn’t either.

The increases would have cost-the-city $8,410. Without the increases, salaries for the mayor, city attorney and clerk treasurer will hold at $86,955, $73,310 and $53,941 respectively. Council members’ salaries will remain at $7,923.

The proposed $9.2 million budget, up from $8.8 million for 2009, includes $200,000 for street repair, $50,000 for sidewalks, $50,000 to update the fa├žade of city hall, $54,000 for a new roof on the old bank building next to city hall that the city now owns, and cost-of-living raises and performance-based raises for employees.

Tax revenue is stable and the end-of-year carryover is projected at $300,000.

Additionally, the city has $2.5 million in savings. The mayor said last week that city finances are sounder than they have been in many years and the $8,410 for cost-of-living adjustments for elected officials was affordable.

In other business, the council heard from Charles Hembree, director of field operations with Sudden Link Communications, who said cable rates are going up $2.47 per month.

Hembree said most of the increase will pay for the rising cost of programming. But he said a $4 million system upgrade is in progress that will make the system fully digital and give customers Internet service that is faster than any “for miles around.”

Alderman Ed Long told Hembree that he turned in his cable box when he learned about the increase. He said the hike would be a burden on many elderly residents who don’t need or want the expanded services.

“You’re not going to convince me that anything about this is right,” Long said.

The mayor had worked with Long a decade ago trying to hold cable costs down, but he learned the city has no control over its cost. He challenged Hembree to use Cabot as an experiment where special packages are offered to elderly residents.

Hembree made no promises except to carry the request to his superiors.