Despite the financial stress due to lack of funds to pay the day-to-day operations payroll for the city employees and elected officials, a handful of contracts were discussed at Tuesday night's Helena – West Helena City Council session. Council members listened intently to each worthy cause requesting additional funding.
Despite the financial stress due to lack of funds to pay the day-to-day operations payroll for the city employees and elected officials, a handful of contracts were discussed at Tuesday night's Helena – West Helena City Council session. Council members listened intently to each worthy cause requesting additional funding. Rev. Julious McGruder of the New Zion Community Center presented a proposal of being included in Resolution 16 providing funding to non-profit services offered to the youth of the community. “We rely solely on donations to provide meals, educational programs and a safe haven for our youths,” stated McGruder. “We need donations in order to expand and offer tutoring services and other things that we hope to encourage our community youths.” McGruder explained that these donations would not be going to the church but to the educational learning centers and the daycare services provided. The council reviewed contracts from other non-profit organizations including Beautiful Zion Community Center, Beyond the Bell Education Stations and Video Masters Webpage. “If we can barely make payroll, we don't really need to be looking at giving any donations at this time,” commented councilman Jay Hollowell. Councilwoman Vivian Holder questioned City Clerk Sandi Ramsey, regarding whether or not the city could afford the requested additions to Resolution 16. “This going to be a very bad year,” said Ramsey. “Various vendors have cut us off due to lack of payment. We have the Municipal League fund of $42,000 that is due.” Ramsey went onto say that sales tax is dropping on a monthly basis. “Based on what we brought in 2012, we'll be lucky if we get $370,000 in next week,” she said. “Out of that I have to pay two sets of pensions, another payroll will be due, $63,000 is due in health insurance, a $95,000 payment is due for a pumper truck for the fire department, which will be the last payment,” Ramsey continued. The Municipal Work Division informed Ramsey that the city's premium for this year is $117,000 and has been due since Dec. 31. The city has not been able to make a payment. “They are not going to pay any workman's comp until I can make some type of payment somewhere between $15,000 to $20,000,” Ramsey added. As of this time, I am $132,000 short of what is needed not including another payroll in the middle of March. I don't have anywhere else to get money from. We were just blessed that we could pay payroll this time.” According to Ramsey, now there are more funds that need to be paid back as a result of having to borrow to make payroll. Meanwhile, maintenance on city vehicles had to be paid to keep the city services up and going, bills still need to be paid, some older than 90 days. “Right now I am struggling to figure out a way to come up with the $132,000 by the end of February,” said Ramsey. Councilwomen Wanda Crockett asked how the finances are prioritized to which Ramsey responded, “I just try to pay the contracts that affect the city and pay some of the things that we are obligated to pay in order to keep the equipment trucks running, lights on, etc.” “I don't think that we should take on any more additional obligations until we can get a handle on the obligations we have currently,” commented councilman Joe St. Columbia. St. Columbia recommended bringing in a certified public accountant to determine whether or not the city needs to file bankruptcy or find some way to pay the bills. “We need to go back and look where the major drain of funds is coming from. We need to make cuts, prioritize and make it an obligation to bring down the debt we currently have,” stated councilman Christopher Franklin. Additional revenue and amending the budget was discussed as the council addressed the depleting funds. “At some point we as a body are going to have to do what we were elected to do. We need to look at finding new revenue,” concluded Hollowell.