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Mayor, City Council spar over budget

The first Selma City budget meeting between Mayor Darrio Melton and the City Council was intense on Thursday at the Convention Center.

Melton sent his proposed 2018-19 budget to the city council on Aug. 3. The $22 million budget is a $4.9 million increase from last year’s total. In March the council voted down the Mayor’s 2017-18 budget and passed a continuation of the 2016-2017 budget.

The proposed budget has no cuts, but a steam of new revenue. Melton’s purpose is to build a safer, smarter and stronger city of Selma.

“We need to move the city forward,” Melton said. “If I want my kids to live in Selma, we’ll have to make tough choices.”

Present at the meeting were Council President Corey Bowie, Councilmen John Leashore, Carl Bowline and Michael Johnson and Councilwomen Angela Benjamin, Susan Youngblood, Jannie Thomas and Miah Jackson. Councilman Sam Randolph was not present.

Most of the Council did not agree with the proposed budget and recommended cuts. Youngblood compared Melton’s proposed budget to a letter to Santa Claus.

Melton challenged the Council to come up with suggestions.

“I’m not sure where we can cut from,” Melton said. “If the Council has ideas, we’ll definitely entertain them. If you don’t agree to my solutions, bring me solutions.”

Bowie urged all Council members to put in writing their budget items and submit it to Melton.

The one-cent sales tax for public safety is projected to produce an estimated $2.2 million in additional revenue. This brings the proposed budget’s total to $22 million.  He also wants $1.7 million in reserves.

The next budget meeting between Melton, City Council and Treasurer Ronita Wade will be held on Aug. 17. The two items discussed will be Public Safety and Public works.

Melton said it will take $1.7 million to fill needs for the police and fire departments. The budget includes adding 10 new police officers and three Fire Investigators for the fire department as well as pay raises in both departments.

The Fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. The new budget year starts on Oct. 1.