Mount Carmel approves first reading of 2020-21 budget with $59K surplus

Jeff Bobo • Jun 5, 2020 at 8:30 PM

MOUNT CARMEL — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the first reading of its 2020-21 fiscal year budget last week with a $59,000 surplus and $4.5 million in the bank.

The only disagreement among board members was the Mount Carmel Senior Center’s annual contribution, which was reduced from $17,000 in the current fiscal year to $12,000 next year. In 2018-19, the Senior Center received $30,000 from the city.

Members of the BMA said they want to place stipulations on the contribution, such as requiring the center to be open in order to receive its proposed $1,000 per month.

What wasn’t clear is how the funding would be affected by the current situation in which the facility — in accordance with Gov. Jim Lee’s COVID-19 guidelines — is closed to social gatherings but still provides drive-by meal delivery.

City Attorney John Pevy said he would work on a set of funding stipulations and present them to the BMA at the June meeting in time for consideration before the final budget is approved.

Pevy’s concern was that if the city “put strings on the money” it’s possible the Senior Center might open before it’s safe to do so and expose seniors to risk.

“I don’t think they would do that,” Pevy said. “I think they would just forfeit that $1,000, however long it would take.”

Alderman Jim Gilliam said, “I wouldn’t grant them nothing. They’ve got $80,000 savings in the bank. If you’ve got that kind of money, why would you want more?”

Vice-Mayor Jennifer Williams replied, “Why would we not support our senior citizens? That goes against the heart of what government should do for communities.”

Gilliam: “I think they should show us a need that they need. Right now it’s not a need.”

Williams: “It looks very poorly on the board to not support our senior citizens.”

Gilliam: “It looks very poorly to the taxpayers too.”

As approved at last Thursday’s meeting, the $12,000 contribution to the Senior Center remained intact.

In May, City Manager Mike Housewright presented the BMA a proposed 2020-21 fiscal year budget showing a $255,000 surplus.

The purchase of a new brush truck was added to the proposed budget since then, however, reducing the proposed budget surplus to $59,000

The proposed budget accomplishes several things like adding one police position so that there will be two officers patrolling the city overnight seven days a week instead of just one.

It also purchases one new patrol car to replace a high-mileage vehicle in the fleet and covers the cost of hiring a new CFO early enough to be trained by longtime CFO Tammy Conner, who is retiring at the end of December.

A 3% overall increase in employee salaries was also included in the budget proposal, although Housewright said it wouldn’t be an across-the-board 3% raise. Instead, each employee would receive an evaluation and be eligible for up to a 35-cent pay increase based on that evaluation.

The first reading of the budget was approved 4-2. Aldermen Jim Gilliam and Steven McLain voted no and Pat Stilwell abstained.

The BMA will consider the second and final reading when it meets in regular session on June 25. A BMA workshop is scheduled at City Hall for June 11 at 6 p.m.

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