Mayor: the Council’s taking away from our children

Published 4:37 pm Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Selma Mayor Darrio Melton continues to question the City Council’s decision over the handling of the city’s financial issues.

In a press release released Wednesday, Melton criticized the City Council’s decision to use $400,000 in allegedly earmarked money for education to bring back the 68 laid off city employees.

“The grand achievement of Selma City Council’s fiscal responsibilities over the last two years isn’t pulling the city out of its economic woes,” Melton wrote. “No, it’s figuring out a way to somehow dig it in deeper. On Nov. 19, with the city finances engulfed in flames, the council finally proclaimed a ‘bold’ idea to address the problems.”

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The $400,000 was earmarked for education spending in 1982 and is paid annually without a set stop date. Councilman Sam Randolph said Monday the money was originally set for construction of a gymnasium at the School of Discovery (SOD).

According to Randolph, the idea to strip the $400,000 came from Melton during a meeting with Council President Corey Bowie and councilwoman Angela Benjamin. Melton brought documentation that showed where the money was being spent. Councilwoman Jannie Thomas said Melton gave the letter to Benjamin.

Melton said the council’s taking money from children.

“The council instead vowed to fight all the ideas from the mayor’s office and preferred to take $400,000 dollars from the school system,” Melton wrote. “$400,000. Let that sink in. The council reported that they “found” this money. Where was the money lost or hidden? The reality is the money they so heartlessly voted to take away from children in the school system is not in a bank somewhere.”

Bowie abstained from voting for the measure at Monday’s finance meeting.

“Since the inception of this proposal, I was adamant against taking funding from our schools, the school system is a vital part of any city,” Bowie said.

Melton, who was elected Mayor in 2016, explained how the earmarked funds are used for education.

“Monthly, the school system gets 20 percent of a one cent sales tax that was passed over 36 years ago,” Melton said. “Those funds only go out in small increments as sale taxes come in. To put it into proper context, if laying off over 60 city employees and reducing public service in their unbalanced budget wasn’t enough, they have stooped to an all-time low, targeting our children. They cannot balance the budget on the back of our children.”

Selma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Avis Williams said Wednesday no one from the city council nor the Mayor’s office has contacted her about taking the $400,000. She hopes to meet with city officials in the next week.

Melton said the council has refused to address the city’s full-blown financial crisis and their solutions aren’t working.

“City Council President, Corey Bowie, called a special council meeting to resolve the $5 million budget shortfall, and it was a tremendous failure to say the least,” Melton said. “Different council members are fixed firmly on three different plans for the City of Selma, but it seems to me the right hand doesn’t understand what the left hand is doing and nobody is willing to compromise to find the solutions that work for the people of Selma.”

Melton gives Public Works funding as an example.

“Public works is one of the largest departments in our city’s budget, and we can alleviate a tremendous amount of pressure on the budget by creating a $10 monthly fee for trash services,” Melton said. “Fees for trash services alone would provide hundreds of thousands for the Public Works Department, save roughly 40 public work jobs, and pay for the newly purchased trash trucks.”

On the $5 million budget shortfall, Melton said he’s against the city continuing to borrow money.

“For years, we have borrowed from Peter to pay Paul, and we can’t put off paying the piper, but nobody can come to an agreement on where to get the money,” Melton said. “Some members of the council are calling for taking money from our children, a couple are calling for departments to stop buying essentials for operations, while others are calling for deeper budget cuts. All of these plans will be worthless because they are not addressing the core issue. We need more revenue.”

Melton accused the council of not being on the same page and second-guesses their $17.4 million budget.

“The truth of the matter is that the City of Selma is facing a tremendous budget crisis, and it appears our leaders are too preoccupied with their own agendas to handle the situation appropriately,” Melton said. “They continue to cry foul and a lack of transparency while at the same time they point out things that they have ‘discovered.’ Which is it? Either you are getting the information or you are not. The council is throwing rocks again and hiding their hands. They are crying foul about their own budget. Who votes for a budget and turns around and blame someone else for the budget they passed?”

Melton said he deserves the opportunity to do the job he was elected for.

“When voters went to the ballot box and chose new leadership in 2016, they chose who to hire to do a job for the city,” Melton said. “A big part of that job is doing the business of the City of Selma—most importantly, passing a balanced and useful budget. The City Council continues to taunt fiscal responsibility and financial monitoring, yet now they are turning around and asking you to hire more city employees and to get more services with less revenue. There is nothing fiscal responsible about that, and there is certainly nothing right about that.”

Melton closes the release by urging city residents to get behind him and ignore the council’s ideas.

“It is time to fix this mess, and I hope the people of Selma will stand beside common-sense solutions and reject the political posturing by the Selma City Council,” Melton said.