City council tightens belt by cutting travel

Published 10:32 pm Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Selma City Council members won’t take any trips on the city’s dollar.

The council voted during its meeting Tuesday night to freeze all of its travel. The only exception would be the $8,000 promised to send the Selma Youth Ambassadors to the inauguration in Washington in January.

Council members usually take several trips during the year to attend workshops held by the National League of Cities or the state’s Municipal League. And, said Council President Geraldine Allen, council members may go, but they’ll have to receive scholarships or pay their own way.

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“This is a time when we need to tighten our budget,” Allen said.

In fiscal 2008, the city council had $50,000 to spend on travel, but actually spent $35,715.10. Its proposed 2009 budget calls for $40,000 in travel.

Last week during a work session, council members agreed generally they could not ask city employees and department heads to cinch their belts without giving some in return.

Additionally, the city council on Tuesday voted to reduce their discretionary funds by $5,000 until the city’s finances improved.

The action came within minutes of the council approving Mayor George Evan’s proposal to discontinue the Community Outreach Department, taking some of those resources and creating a code enforcement department. The city needs code enforcement, Evans reasoned. The employees of the code enforcement department could cite property owners who did not adhere to city ordinance standards. In addition, those employees could help people in neighborhoods — the intent of the community outreach.

Evans said the move amounted to making the best of the resources. He has said layoffs and deep cuts are coming to pull the city’s expenditures in line with its revenues.

Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw accused Evans of playing with the numbers in the budget. Crenshaw has long been an advocate of the Community Outreach Department, saying it helped stymie crime in high crime neighborhoods, especially with the mobile drug unit.