Valley Grande budget concerns resolved

Published 5:09 pm Wednesday, September 18, 2013

By Jay Sowers

The Selma Times-Journal


VALLEY GRANDE — When the Valley Grande City Council convenes for a rare Tuesday meeting on Oct. 1, they should be able to finally to vote on and approve the city’s 2013-2014 operating budget after a special session was held Tuesday to thoroughly go through the budget.

Valley Grande Mayor Wayne Labbe and the city council met for more than two hours Tuesday to go through the proposed budget — line by line — after several members expressed concerns about items during the regularly-scheduled meeting a day earlier.

Labbe said that while the meeting wasn’t originally part of the council’s schedule, it was a necessary means to get everyone on the same page.

“People have different perceptions of things, so going item by item, in my experience seems to help out,” Labbe said.

The primary disagreement raised during Monday’s meeting was about the amount of money to be spent on improvements to the Valley Grande Sports Complex. The proposed budget had $50,000 set aside for work at the complex, and another $100,000 to be designated for capital improvements — some of which, several council members feared, would go toward work at the sports complex also.

Council member Jane Craig said she wants to see more teams express interest in using the ball fields before she would agree to spend so much money on the ongoing improvement project.

“Until we get [demand] built up, we can wait until the next year … it’s got to build back up before we put that kind of money out there,” Craig said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, council members agreed to earmark $50,000 in the budget for work on the sports complex and any additional capital improvements can be added to the budget later with the approval of the council.

Council member Kenneth Martin said he was pleased by the compromise.

“Instead of separating the sports complex project and capital improvement projects, we kind of combined those into one item,” Martin said.

Overall, the council managed to cut the city’s operating budget from the $708,000 on the books for 2012-2013, down to a proposed $560,000 — something Martin said is good for the fiscal security of the city.

“Overall, the drop in expenses is a great thing because it means we don’t have to touch the money in our Certificate of Deposit,” Martin said.

During Monday’s meeting, Martin had expressed a fear that money in the city’s CD was budgeted to be used for operating costs in the upcoming budget.

“The CD is our emergency saving fund and I do not want to see it shown on the budget that we are going to use that money unless it is truly an emergency,” Martin said.

Council members also approved changes to benefits for city clerk Janet Frasier and assistant city clerk Kim Harris.

Upon approval of the budget, both will now be eligible for state retirement money as well as other improved benefits, something Labbe said they have more than earned through their hard work.

“We invest our money to train them, and if you don’t give them any incentive to stay they are going to go elsewhere,” Labbe said. “We have a great staff there and I certainly want to keep them.”

The completed budget will be voted on during the council’s next meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 6 p.m.