SYLACAUGA -- The City Council has worked through an $800,000 deficit for the proposed 2019 budget to give employees a raise.
During a two-hour work session Thursday, the council indicated it believes it has sliced enough to get close to having a balanced budget, said Council President Lee Perryman.
Perryman held up two fingers just inches apart, saying, “I think we are so close here to having a budget. We have a small surplus.”
In the meantime, the council sought to make sure at least three items would be included in the budget when it was finally complete and ready for a vote.
The first was a 2-percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for full-time employees and a commitment to give another 2-percent COLA in the 2020 budget.
The second was a computer upgrade for city departments of $100,000 for 2019 and $100,000 for 2020. City Clerk and Treasurer Patricia Carden said Councilman Donnie Blackmon made the suggestion to upgrade the computers over a two-year period. The city will also spend money for maintenance and software for the computers.
The final item was the hiring of three additional firefighters. Fire Chief Adam Gardner had approached the council earlier in budget talks about hiring six.
The additional firefighters will allow the city to decrease its insurance rating through the Insurance Service Office (ISO). This will help cut insurance costs for residents in the city.
“We may not be able to find all six, would hiring three make a big difference?” Perryman asked.
Gardner said it would make a difference.
“This can help us lower our insurance rating,” he said. “We can get ISO back here to look at lowering the rate. We will take what we can get.”
The council also plans to draft a new ordinance for business licenses fees that will benefit the budget.
The council added an hour to its work session Tuesday, Oct. 16, to discuss the budget once again. Finance specialist Yolunda Burns said she needed time to verify the changes the council sought in updating the budget and working to balance it.
The work session will begin at 4 p.m. and will be followed by the council’s regular meeting at 6.
When asked if the budget will be ready to adopt Tuesday evening, Burns said she didn’t think so.
For years, the City Council in Sylacauga has failed to pass a budget by Oct. 31, the end of the fiscal year. In recent years, the budget has usually been adopted sometime in November.