City financial health recovering

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In the workshop prior to the Oct. 23 council meeting, Mayor Butch Berry was pleased to announce the city budget, all funds considered, was $514,453 in the black. He credited the positive news in part to the spending freeze in place for 18 months, but also to diligent attempts by department heads to keep spending within budget.

One deficit category was sewer utilities, which was over budget by $52,563. Berry said there have been unanticipated repairs at the sewer plant, but another factor has been the fact the city must purchase water from itself like any other customer, and the recent sewer rate increase was not built into budget expectations.

Overall, however, Berry said he was pleased with the trend.

Alderman Bob Thomas asked if there were a plan to accelerate paying down bonded indebtedness because of the rate increase, and Finance Director Lonnie Clark replied there is a plan he and Berry have devised which will eventually be presented to council.

Alderman Kristi Kendrick noticed the figures she was seeing represented the best bank balance for the city since December 2014.

Clark said part of the positive results in the budget come from the very conservative budget passed by council, but he asserted at some point, “We’ll have to loosen the screws.”

Berry said council should consider in the upcoming budget some kind of raise for city employees. “Let’s see how we can keep these people going,” he said.

Alderman Terry McClung responded no one on council would argue with a cost of living adjustment for employees, but insisted the rest of the budget should be kept flat for now.

Alderman David Mitchell observed the presentation of the budget before them was much easier to read and more useful because of the recent computer system upgrade.

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