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Council’s budget changes address training, salaries

The city’s budget, or lack thereof, has been on the minds of the Selma City Council and Selma Mayor Darrio Melton for weeks – after the council failed to pass Melton’s budget, the City of Selma Public Works Department staged a weeks-long “sickout;” in a recent letter chiding the council for its criticism of downtown wireless internet service, Melton asserted that the council’s failure to pass a budget has slowed progress on the downtown broadband initiative; at the same time, the council has claimed it has approved a budget that is continually being amended to meet the city’s needs – and a recent document indicates what kind of changes the council is looking to make.

The document was attached to an updated budget distributed to the council recently and includes a list of the requests made by various departments and the recommendations the council put forth to address those issues.

“That’s what I mean by amending the budget,” said Selma City Council President Corey Bowie. “Basically, it’s always for the improvement of the quality of services you’re going to provide. Also, there were some unforeseen things in there that didn’t come up when we were drafting the budget.”

Bowie said the changes represent the council’s efforts to prioritize the needs of the city and shows a clearer picture of where those needs are and how they can be met.

The first recommendation on the document calls for a council secretary – with the recent contract hiring of Carneetie Ellison, the council now has a secretary in place after more than a year without one.

The City of Selma Tax and License Office requested an Assistant Tax Collector, $2,500 for training, an increase in pay and a four-member staff.

In addition, the council recommended – at the urging of Selma City Councilwoman Jannie Thomas – that the office stop accepting cash payments and only collect checks or money orders.

In the City of Selma Finance Department, the council has recommended further addressing the “Auburn Pay Plan,” a document compiled by Auburn University that brings Selma’s pay scale in line with similarly-sized municipalities, and providing for additional training for all staff.

As far as the Auburn plan is concerned, Bowie noted that parts of the university’s study have not been finished and delivered to the city.

“We’re just going to look at it as an abstract,” Bowie said. “It’s a barometer to see how we can work some of that stuff in.”

As far as training is concerned, Bowie noted that municipal laws change frequently, as does technology, and finance department employees should be well-versed on any of those changes if they are expected to do their jobs properly.

As for the City of Selma Planning and Development Department, the council recommended spending $50,000 for four contract workers to operate the Selma Welcome Center, as well as a $60,000 contract with the grant assistance company Azimuth – Selma City Councilwoman Miah Jackson has long supported the Azimuth contract, which was approved by the council at a recent meeting.

In the City of Selma Public Buildings Department, the council recommended moving $85,000 for building repairs to unappropriated moving the ceramics program back to the buildings department, reviving Art Camp and providing $1,200 for fuel for the department’s director.

Additionally, the council has called for Selma City Clerk Ivy Harrison to receive $120,000 to hire help for the upcoming election, as well as an increase in salary from $52,000 to $60,000.

“Her office is a central office for elections in this city,” Bowie said, noting that next year’s elections are shaping up to be contentious. “In between her day-to-day work as the clerk, and then the election, she’s going to need some extra help.”