Budget gets a proposed makeover

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 8, 2003

What a difference a few days made to the Ironton Finance Committee when it came to recommending a revised budget to the Ironton City Council.

After meeting last Thursday and being unable to agree on changes, the finance committee unanimously recommended Tuesday the year's first revisions of the 2003 budget.

The Ironton City Council will vote on the modified budget at 6 p.m. Thursday. Because five members of council sponsored the revision, it will most likely pass.

Email newsletter signup

"I am excited because there were certain line-items that needed realigned," City Finance Director Cindy Anderson said. "I was going to have to start denying purchase orders, basically shutting down departments, and I didn't want to do that."

Normally, the budget is revised several times throughout the year, but it had not been necessary this year, Anderson said last week.

Although Finance Committee Chairman Jesse Roberts had said he was ready to recommend the budget draft at last Thursday's meeting, committee members Brent Pyles and Richard Price indicated that they still had too many unanswered questions about what caused budget overruns and other increased expenditures in various departments.

Pyles and Price both agreed that their questions, many of which were regarding the health department, had been addressed during closed sessions that focused on personnel issues. Based on open meetings laws, these sessions are closed to the public and the media.

"Before, I was not sure which direction the health board was going," Price said. "Now I feel comfortable with the direction the health board is heading in terms of controlling expenses."

Mayor Bob Cleary, president of the health board, said the board met several times recently to address some of the causes of the overruns that included a miscommunication in scheduling that lead to the department offering clinical services only three days a week instead of five days, health problems for key personnel, a $5,400 increase in basic operating expenses and the $11,000 buyout for the retirement of Charlie Kouns, former registered sanitarian and health commissioner.

"We have done research on the performance of the clinic, the performance history of it," Cleary said. "We are looking at making some changes in policy and procedures to keep costs down."

While unable to announce specific changes at this time, Cleary said the health board meets again at 10 a.m. Thursday.

In the original 2003 budget, the total revenue for the general fund was estimated at $3,597,359. The proposed revision projects revenues of $3,798,982.

The general fund carryover at the end of the year was originally projected at $446,308 but was modified to $576,737 to reflect the Boyd County income tax ruling and $180,000 more in estate/inheritance tax than estimated.

Expenditure projections went up as well. In the original budget, expenditures from the general fund were $4,029,122. The revision projects $4,100,317.

Except for the health department and the police department, most department's expenses were at or below projections. The revision proposes transferring an additional $24,400 to the Health Fund, to help account for the overruns and lack of revenue, and $16,948 to the police department.

All city department heads attended the meeting in case the committee members had any questions. Pyles and Price asked Police Chief Bill Garland about how effective the changes he made that included moving an officer to detective had been in reducing overtime.

After only 40 days, it is still too soon to give a complete answer, Garland said. However, the changes have shown positive results in solving budgetary problems and in fighting crime.

"Our September payroll indicates that the overtime budget was cut in half," he said. "It was running about $2,000 a month. Now it is down to about $1,000."

Most importantly, moving Officer Jim Akers to detective has allowed the department to solve more cases and free up Detective Capt. Chris Bowman to focus on the drug problem, Garland said,

"We have had 18 cases solved in the last 40 days. These range from sexual assault to theft and more," Garland said. "In the last week and a half, more than $10,000 in crack cocaine and cocaine have been taken off the streets of Ironton."

Pyles said he was encouraged by Garland's report.

"I understand you can't budget crime, but it is a promising sign if nothing else," he said of the police department's ability to minimize hits to the budget and still keep the streets safe.

The 2003 budget expires on Dec. 31, the end of fiscal year. No city department can end with a negative balance or the state can declare the city in a fiscal emergency. The last time that happened was 1980.