Smyrna budget meets Max-imum resistance
by Haisten Willis
June 07, 2014 04:00 AM | 2922 views | 1 1 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SMYRNA — Longtime Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon vetoed the city’s budget Friday, the last day he had the authority to do so.

The budget was passed during the City Council’s Monday meeting by a 4-3 vote in Bacon’s absence. The mayor battled an illness this week that he said on Thursday reminded him of kidney stones.

Bacon told the MDJ of his plans to veto the budget on Thursday, saying he had “issues” with it, but he failed to cite specifics.

He could not be reached Friday.

Bacon has four days to veto the vote by the council, and it takes five votes to override his veto. He said it’s only the seventh or eighth time he’s made a veto in his 28 years as mayor.

“I put a lot of thought into it before I veto something,” Bacon said Thursday. “I’ve rescinded vetoes in the past after I felt I got the answers I was looking for.”

The budget almost did not pass Monday. With Mayor Pro Tem Melleny Pritchett running the meeting, the council deadlocked at 3-3 during the initial vote. Pritchett broke the tie by voting in favor of the budget. There was little discussion Monday ahead of the vote.

Council member objections

Council members who voted against the budget said they did so because it included “wants rather than needs,” such as a city hall decorator.

One major issue in the budget, according to Wade Lnenicka, the Ward 6 representative first elected to the council in 1988, is in the police department.

“Under the budget, our park rangers would be transferred to the Smyrna Police Department,” said Lnenicka, who voted against the budget Monday. “Right now, they are under our Parks and Recreation Director, Steve Ciaccio.”

Lnenicka said transferring park rangers to the police department is meant to make sure all armed positions report to a chief. But he worries it could change the rangers’ focus.

“There’s a different way you handle kids misbehaving in a park versus a traffic stop where you walk to a vehicle and don’t know if that person will kill you or not,” he said.

Lnenicka also said he opposes a change that would remove a 5 percent raise given to police officers who become detectives.

Another issue cited by Lnenicka is that administrative assistants would receive a higher pay grade if they report to a department head rather than a division head within the department. He said he doesn’t understand the need for a hierarchy of administrative assistants based on who they work for.

Andrea Blustein, the Ward 2 representative who also voted against the budget, said it included expenses she viewed as wants rather than needs.

“They have $2,000 in there for hiring a decorator at city hall,” she said. “I don’t spend my own money that way, and I try to take that attitude toward the city budget. If I won’t spend it that way on myself, I want to protect my ward citizens.”

Both Lnenicka and Blustein said they felt they didn’t have enough time to discuss the budget before the vote.

Other council members said there was plenty of discussion, including Teri Anulewicz, the Ward 3 representative.

“We had a council meeting where we spent four and a half hours talking about the budget, and at the end of that meeting we made about $1,500 worth of changes,” she said. “It’s a good budget.”

The city council meets for a work session June 9 and has a voting meeting June 16. The budget has to be passed by July 1, which is the start of the city’s fiscal year. The council can also choose to hold a special called meeting for budget matters.

Budget numbers

The budget Bacon vetoed runs from July 1 to June 30, 2015. It holds the millage rate at 8.99 mills, where it has stood since 2008. One mill collects $1.86 million of revenue in Smyrna.

No services would be cut under the proposed budget. Employees received raises of between 1 and 3 percent in January based on merit, according to Kevin Klosterboer, Smyrna’s budget manager, and the city will evaluate raises for next January once it begins property tax collections later this year.

In Smyrna’s general fund, there is $10.8 million in unassigned fund balance and $2.9 million committed, according to Klosterboer. The committed number is typically what is referred to as reserves as this is money set aside for debt, health care, retirement and capital projects, Klosterboer added. The budget would not dip into reserves.

The total budget proposed by Eric Taylor, Smyrna’s city administrator, balances revenues and expenses at $73.7 million, an increase of 6.5 percent or $4.5 million over the fiscal 2014 budget.

The budget funds 421.5 full-time positions, which is 6.7 more positions than the current fiscal year.

New positions include a new office assistant position in the community development department, a new purchasing buyer position in the finance department, a new crew worker position in the highways and streets department, a new director of information systems position in the information systems department and a new part-time recycling center coordinator position in the Keep Smyrna Beautiful department.

The Smyrna Police Department has an operating revenue of $7.46 million in the vetoed budget, which is down from last year’s allocation of $7.5 million. The budget funds 93 police officers, the same number as last year’s budget.

The budget funds the Smyrna Fire Department at $4.79 million, which is down from last year’s allocation of $4.87 million. The budget funds 72 fire fighters, which is the same as last year’s budget.

Comments
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Joe Mama
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June 07, 2014
I would hardly call a 1 to 3% raise based upon merit a "pay raise". It doesn't even qualify as a cost of living increase, because it does not keep up with inflation. Therefore, employees are effectively earning less money each year, even at the maximum (3%). So, they're proposing the Police Department operate at a lower budget than last year. That's ridiculous! The PD is already operating with sub-standard equipment, patrol cars exceeding 130k miles in some cases, and are short on manpower. The city council needs to make Public Safety their priority and not adding runway lights to Atlanta Road. Just my two cents...
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