Salem city government is going to begin its new fiscal year with money in the bank.
Mayor Gary Clayton presented a proposed 2011 budget at the Jan. 27 meeting of the Salem City Council.
"I think this is a good budget," Mayor Clayton told council members, adding one of his priorities in recent years has been to build up the amount on hand in the city's main accounts: the General Fund, Street Fund and Water and Sewer Fund.
"This year (2010), we saw a $48,000 gain in the General Fund," said Clayton, "and we should see another gain next year (2011)."
According to Clayton, the General Fund balance has "historically struggled," since it is the "catch all" when it comes to most expenditures.
"But through some cuts and watching expenditures, I think we have gotten back on track," said Clayton.
Clayton produced figures showing the General Fund's balance fell to $205,000 in 2008 but, by closely monitoring spending, it rose to $301,486 at the end of 2009 and gained about $48,000 in 2010, rising to a balance of $347,340.
The Water and Sewer Fund currently has a balance of $334,500 and the Street Fund ended the year with $184,900 on hand.
According to Clayton, the budget he and Treasurer Pam Bryant put together, allows for some increased maintenance and some new expenditures, but should also allow the fund balances to continue to grow.
Proposed expenditures include funds for repairs and maintenance at the City Park, some of which has been deferred in recent years.
Money is also budgeted to buy gravel for the walking track to be developed at the new city park, located along Highway 62/412 on the eastern edge of the city.
Public Works Director Bill Worsham hopes to buy some new equipment and vehicles this year: a backhoe, a pickup truck and a one and a quarter ton truck, to be used for public works and water and sewer projects. The city hopes to obtain a federal grant which will pay 40% of the vehicle costs.
Public Works also hopes to extend the life of city streets through patching cracks and sealing pavement.
The city will also continue replacing sections of old water lines, chlorinator pumps and water meters in 2011.
The downside of the city's financial picture in 2010 was the local option sales tax. Collection of the tax was down by more than $9,000, reflecting the still sluggish economy.
According to the Mayor, the decline was expected and figured into the 2010 budget. So, overall, the city collected more option tax money than the conservative budget projected.
Looking to this year, the Mayor expressed optimism that the option tax collections will return to more normal levels, as the economy continues to improve..
Council members had few questions or comments about the proposed new budget and it was passed unanimously.
Under Arkansas law, city governments must approve new fiscal year budgets by Feb. 1.
In other council business, Worsham told council members the project to run a water line to the sports complex on the South Fork River has been completed. It will not be connected until spring.
Fire Chief Heath Everett reported plans have been finalized to hire a staff Training Officer. The position will pay $2,400 a year.
Police Chief Al Roork described 2010 as "a real busy year," as he gave a year end activity report.
Records show the department handled 723 formal complaints last year although, according to Roork, it easily handled more than 2,000 calls for service.
In 2010, there were 60 auto accidents in the city limit, 34 thefts, five burglaries, and the top complaint was 77 reported domestic disputes.
The criminal case file also included one murder, two meth lab discoveries and two search warrants obtained for use in child porn investigations.
Driving with no liability insurance was the most frequently issued ticket (48), followed by no seat belt (45), driving while intoxicated (41), driving on a suspended license (39) and possession of a controlled substance (37).
The 2010 crimes that showed the biggest increase over 2009? The chief said the city's 45 DWI arrests and seven resisting arrest citations were "way up" over past years.
The number one "good deed" the department does? Officers opened 240 vehicles for people who had locked their keys inside.
"Every year, it seems like law enforcement gets busier and busier and busier," said Roork.
The next city council meeting will take place on Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at city hall.