The Corbin City Commission gave final approval to the city’s $10.663 million budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year Monday night but it was not without dissent.
Commissioner Suzie Razmus had expressed reservations about the budget during the first reading at a special called meeting last Thursday.
Monday night, Razmus cast the sole “no” vote as the budget was approved by a vote of 4-1.
“I believe we are being overly optimistic about our revenues and we have been doing that for the last couple of years,” Razmus said following the vote. “I also think there are expenditures that are not being contained that we need to address. And I think that is to the detriment of our city. And so I can’t, in good conscience, vote for this budget, as it is being presented. I think we need to go back to the drawing board.”
Commissioner Ed Tye responded with praise for the budget.
“I’d like to compliment Mr. (Marlon) Sams on his budget,” Tye said in reference to the city manager to who is tasked with putting the budget together. “I thought it was pretty good.”
When asked what specifically she did not like about the budget, Razmus responded, “All of it!”
Razmus pointed to areas, such as the amount of overtime the city employees are accruing and the cost of The Arena, as two specific issues she believes need to be addressed.
Exact figures on overtime were not available. However, on several occasions, Sams has cautioned department heads to be aware of overtime and do their best to limit it.
While it appears there was an increase in the police budget of $698,020, it is, in reality an accounting process to keep the city within the bounds of state law.
Changes to the state law made in 2014 require the city to place the alcohol tax revenue into a separate account to be used on alcohol related enforcement over and above the police budget.
The police department accounts for the largest portion of the city budget. It’s budget is projected to be $2.219 million in the upcoming year.
Salaries and wages will again account for the largest percentage of the budget at $806,110. That is the same amount that was budgeted in 2014-15. However, in the budget report dated May 28, the department had already exceeded that number by more than $138,000, paying out $944,753.22 in salaries and wages.
In 2011, a budgetary issue led to Corbin Police officers receiving automatic raises, including raises for completing academy training and being promoted.
As a result, what began as an effort to bring the pay of Corbin officers more in line with other departments sent Corbin officer’s salaries skyrocketing.
Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney noted at the time that a small number of rank-and-file officers were making $60,000 per year with overtime.
In 2013, a municipal order was issued to freeze the salaries of police officers and only raise them when other employees received a raise.
Overall, the police department has expended 81.9 of its 2014-15 budget, spending $1.791 million of the $2.187 million budget, as off May 28.
“I believe we have a great police department, but we only have a certain amount of money,” Razmus said.
“We can’t continue to spend more money than we take in. We can’t continue at that rate.”
Sams said he is continuing to emphasize to city department heads the need to keep spending in check in an effort to keep the city within budget.
Of the other major city departments including: building inspector, recreation, recycling, fire department and public works, recreation is the most efficient, spending 58.9 percent of the funds allocated in 2014-15. The recreation department was allocated $690,215. As of May 28, the department had spent $406,608, leaving it with more than $283,000.
Public works had spent 71.3 percent of its $1.845 million budget. Public works has been budgeted $2.074 million in the new budget. That includes $200,000 from the municipal aid fund and $32,050 from the LGEA fund.
Recycling had spent 78.4 percent of its $403,000 budget. Recycling’s new budget is $365,850.
The building inspector’s office had spent 79 percent of its $125,850 budget. The building inspector’s new budget is $136,300.
The fire department had spent 85 percent of its $1.310 million budget. The fire department’s new budget is $1.321 million.
All of those figures are from the most recent monthly report dated May 28.
“We are operating the best we can, every department is trying to cut back and save,” Sams said. “The City is providing services without any future increases to our citizens.”