Leader Blues

Friday, January 26, 2007

TOP STORY >>Budget in Cabot gets easy approval

IN SHORT: $8.4 million spending measure calls for reducing the city’s workforce.

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council passed an $8.4 million operating budget Wednesday night that includes $7.4 million for the general fund and $1.1 million for streets.

The general fund pays for fire and police protection, the cost of running the mayor’s office, city attorney’s office and the salaries of council members, the public works director, code enforcement officers, building inspectors and animal control officers.

The street budget pays wages for the people who work on the streets and for any repairs they make to streets. There is no money in the budget this year for street overlays, but workers are cleaning ditches to help control flooding and filling potholes.

The budget shows a reduction in city staff from 172 to 148 which helped make possible the 5 percent raises most will receive. However, Mayor Eddie Joe Williams’ salary is increasing by only 3 percent from $56,924 to $58,695, making him the second highest paid city employee. City Attorney Jim Taylor will be paid $66,621 in 2007.

City council members, who are being asked for the first time to meet in committees to approve all ordinances and resolutions before they go before the full council, will get pay increases of about 20 percent. In 2006, they were each paid $5,757. This year they will be paid $7,200. The budget also shows that the human resources department no longer stands alone. It has been consolidated with the mayor’s office. The engineering department no longer exists as of Wednesday night. The city engineer and the computer aided drafting specialist have been dismissed.

Three positions also were cut in public works, two building inspectors and one safety/code enforcement officer.

Former Public Works Director Jim Towe turned in his resignation in December and his position has been filled by Jerrel Maxwell, who worked as a building inspector under Towe, but ran the department before Towe was hired four years ago.
Maxwell’s salary is $45,050 compared to Towe’s $60,286.

The rationale behind the pay cut is that for three of the four years Towe worked for the city, he also was responsible for oversight of water and sewer, which are now under an autonomous commission.

The $2.3 million for the police department does not include anything for new cars or other major equipment purchases. The $1.6 million for the fire department also does not include any major purchases. Neither department will be allowed any new hires in 2007, and no positions may be filled if an employee resigns.

Although the 2007 budget shows the actual deficit spending for 2006 was $89,756, Williams said the city had unpaid bills totaling more than $300,000 when he took office in January.

So he has included in his budget a savings account of $672,297 to be used for emergencies and to carry the city into 2008.
He said he has told department heads to not expect the purse strings to be any looser in 2008 because that is when he will start setting aside money for capital expenditures like roads and the new fire station the city needs.