Tuesday night's Helena-West Helena City Council Discussion centered on 2013's projected budget. Current city officials and newly elected officials expressed concerns and presented issues concerning the finances of each department and the budget income reductions from previous years as it relates to the preliminary budget proposed.
“I recommend that every newly elected official receive copies of 2010 2011, and the 2012 budgets before the scheduled Dec. 11 budget workshop,” commented councilman Jay Hollowell.
According to Mayor Arnell Willis declining revenue, outstanding debt and ongoing expenses of the city's current operations are all factors in the city's current dire financial strains.
“As the mayor mentioned there is a decrease in revenue but it's been reported by the Legislative Audit Committee that our General Fund expenditures exceeded the budget to the tune of $2,087,000, which is a significant drop from our General Funds of 2010 that stood at $12 million plus,” commented Hollowell.
The council addressed the issue of overtime and what was projected for the following year. Department heads gave the council documents pertaining to this year's expenditures and projected expenses for 2013.
“Tonight, we are only going review these figures and prepare ourselves to roll up our sleeves for the scheduled budget workshops and try to incorporate as many of those line items into the 2013 budget that we can,” explained Willis.
Willis also reported that the city has developed a small business concept where each department would manage their budget.
Concern over overtime in the H-WHPD was discussed in regards to reduction in staff.
“What's happening is you decrease the salary expense but you wind up paying more for overtime for the folks coming in to cover that shift,” commented Hollowell. However, the cost of hiring a full-time employee is higher because of the multiplier effect that taxes more expenses including APERS, workman's comp, health insurance and other benefits.
Overtime within the police department is predicted to rise from $176,000 to $199,500.
“We should request the department heads be present at the budget workshops so that they can explain these projections that have been presented to us,” said Hollowell.
Chief Wallace reported to Willis that the crime is increasing and that he'll need more manpower on the streets. However, several council members disagreed and stated that the departments need to hold firm on lowering the overtime.
The council also reviewed several incomplete financial reports from the Parks and Recreation and Street and Sanitation departments and asked that complete reports be presented to the council before the next council session.