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No advancement in budget hearing between Mayor, City Council

Nothing progressed in round two of the budget hearing between the Selma City Council and Mayor Darrio Melton on Tuesday at the George P. Evans Building.

Council members present were President Corey Bowie, Councilmen Carl Bowline, Sam Randolph, Michael Johnson and John Leashore, and Councilwomen Angela Benjamin, Miah Jackson and Jannie Thomas. Councilwoman Susan Youngblood wasn’t present.

Also present at the meeting were Melton, City Attorney and Probate Judge-elect Jimmy Nunn, Selma Treasurer Ronita Wade, Selma Fire Department Assistant Chief Chris Graham and Selma Police Department Capt. Natasha Fowlkes.

The first 30 minutes of the meeting were a replay of the Public Safety committee meeting at City Hall on Aug. 16. Improvements for the Fire Department and Police Department would cost over $600,000 and $1.7 million, respectively.

Jackson questioned Melton about tax increase in his proposed $22 million budget.

“Once we cut some of the waste, you’ll be in a better position to convince me to raise taxes,” Jackson said. “We can pull in our belts a little more.”

Melton challenged the city council to counter his budget proposal. He sent the budget to the nine-member council on Aug. 3.

“I’m not forcing this budget down your throat,” Melton said. “It’s not a wish list, it’s a needs list. What I’ve been hearing from the council is cut, cut, cut. What I’d like to see is a budget from the council for me to see.”

Jackson acknowledged the city council should be held accountable if a budget fails to pass. The city is operating this year under the 2016-2017 budget. The fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 and the 2018-2019 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

“We need to accept responsibility,” Jackson said. “We could’ve had real conversation on what the needs are. I don’t want to be in the position we were in last year.”

Melton said he’s not backing down.

“This budget I proposed is what I want to operate off of,” Melton said.