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Cutting police budget, overtime among city budget discussions

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By Shannon Brock

The Taylorsville City Commission will meet Wednesday (today) for its third budget workshop in three weeks.
The meeting is set for 4 p.m. at the City Hall Annex and is open to the public.
At Thursday’s budget workshop, commissioners discussed topics ranging from approving the budget as submitted by the city’s accounting and finance staff to cutting back on the police department budget, cutting out a portion of budgeted overtime for police officers and water/sewer staff and eliminating the Main Street Manager position.
Commissioner Beverly Ingram, who oversees the streets department, said she wished commissioners were more involved in developing the budget for their respective departments.
“We should be able to discuss the budget [with department heads] and have a say about what it is instead of voting on something that’s already done and have no say about it,” Ingram said.
No vote was taken, nor required, during the second budget workshop. The verbalized goal for the commission was to have a budget agreed upon by May 17 to meet publication and public hearing requirements.
Comptroller Randy McConnell explained that he, City Clerk Steve Biven and others in the accounting and finance departments met with the department heads and that the budget he presented to the commission on April 23 was a “shell.”
“This is just a starting point,” McConnell said.
Commissioner Ellen Redmon, who oversees the sewer department, said although she didn’t go over the budget line-by-line with Public Works Director Harold Compton, she did talk to Compton about that part of the budget.
“He answered questions for me,” Redmon said. “Steve [Biven] answered questions for me.”
Commissioner Kathy Spears expressed concern that although revenue is flat, expenses for the police department keep growing.
During the current budget year, the police department makes up approximately 67 percent of the general fund; in the proposed budget, it’s around 70 to 71 percent.
“It says there in big, bold letters, ‘there is no growth in general fund revenue,’” Mayor Don Pay said looking at budget notes.
“But we keep spending like there is,” Spears said.
Spears specifically addressed the overtime budgets for the police department and the water/sewer department, which she says have increased in part because of the Class D felon program.
“The felon program is great ... but it’s costing us,” she said.
Commissioner Jack Proctor called out two areas where he thinks adjustments could be made: the $7,000 salary of the Main Street manager and a $10,000 contract with someone to answer the calls of the water company after hours.
“I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do that, but that something that ought to be looked at,” Proctor said.
Ingram and Spears also voiced concerns that the raises in the police department budget would be going to employees who are already at the upper end of the pay scale and suggested officers at the lower end should get a raise instead.
Ingram suggested possibly making the police chief and lieutenant positions salaried positions. Biven clarified that if those two employees were taken off patrol and their duties were primarily supervisory, that might be an option. But state law says patrolling officers are to be paid hourly, Biven said.
Neither Chief Toby Lewis, who usually attends commission meetings, nor anyone from the police department was present at Thursday’s meeting.
Spears requested a rundown of all of the city employees’ earnings thus far in the 2012-13 fiscal year, which will be provided during this afternoon’s meeting.
After all of the discussion, Proctor made a motion to accept the recommended budget and approve it as submitted. Pay seconded the motion to move it into discussion.
However, both decided to rescind their motion and second to take a closer look at the police expenses, the Class D felon program and the Main Street program, along with employee salaries, during this afternoon’s budget workshop.
The commission met Tuesday night after press time for its regular monthly meeting, but budget discussions were not on the agenda. Check next week’s paper for information from that meeting as well as this afternoon’s budget workshop.
A fourth budget workshop, dubbed as the final budget workshop, is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the City Hall Annex.