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Budget cuts discussed at Cave City City Council

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Cave City City Council met in a working session Jan. 10 to discuss budget cuts for 2012.

Mayor Daniel Wilson opened the floor with discussion about cuts to the fire department's budget, to save the city money in tough economic times. The department received the majority of budget cuts.

Among the items reviewed included replacing hose, some of which Fire Chief Ronny Milligan said is 20 years old. He explained his plan to replace the hoses on one truck per year until all the departments trucks have new hoses on them. Milligan cited safety reasons as the main reason for the requested replacement. Council agreed to leave the hoses in the budget, then moved forward to discuss the brush truck listed in the department budget.

Milligan explained his department has been trying to get grants for the truck. While the department has applied for a FEMA grant, the application is pending.

Alderman Jonas Anderson told council he is currently working on a USDA Rural Development grant. If approved, the department could receive the truck and all the needed supplies to outfit the truck, including striping and turnout gear, which Milligan said is 10 years old. Anderson said he would keep the council informed regarding the possible grant. Milligan then agreed to remove the brush truck from the budget.

The last item reviewed was a request for a new fireman. Milligan explained the department needs the additional manpower due to school, day care and business building inspections. He told council the extra employee could also be used for other purposes, including as a code enforcement officer.

The idea was quickly rejected by Alderman Ron Burge who said "We have a deficit in the budget. We are spending $100,000 more than we are taking in."

Anderson agreed the budget needs to be under control. The council decided to vote on the amending budget, including the $73,478 in fire department cuts, at a future meeting.

Police Chief Aaron Presser was questioned about possible cuts in his budget. Presser said he always stays well under budget, and that the only items he increased were equipment and fuel expenses.

He also told the council his department has increased the amount of fines being collected through an ordinance passed in Feb. 2010 concerning careless driving.

Presser explained he would need a new radar in one of the department's cars and the department would also need to replace some radio equipment before new FCC regulations go into effect for narrow banding.

In an effort to promote greater spectrum efficiency, the FCC is requiring all public safety, along with industrial and business licensees, to switch from VHF (Very High Frequency radios) to narrow band radios by January 1, 2013. The cost of the conversion was not known.

The mayor suggested allowing Anderson to review grant possibilities for the narrow band conversion, including funds to replace repeaters which forward transmissions to cover the city.

Presser then discussed his year end stipend. The chief receives a $600 stipend as a year end bonus, which does not require additional funds, to be placed in his retirement account.

Presser asked the council to establish a consistent policy for granting raises to employees. Two options were discussed, including the "3,2,1 Option" which would give employees a three percent raise annually if their salary was under $25,000; two percent for salaries from $25,000 to $30,000 and one percent for over $30,000.

Presser pointed out a disadvantage to the program, stating if someone has been with the department many years, they would only receive a one percent raise, while newer employees would receive more. The chief said he favored a merit based system, similar to what is used in Batesville.

The merit program offers raises for educational advancement and longevity, which encourages furthering education and employee retention.

Presser said employees in Batesville are given raises for completing various certificates, as well as years on the job and merit rather than being based on current salary.

Council agreed to explore the option, and form an advisory committee to establish guidelines to implement new policy regarding pay raises.

The Cave City City Council meets the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at City Hall in Cave City. The public is invited to attend.

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