FERRIS—The adoption of the budget for fiscal year 2013-2014 was approved with one objection from council member Carol Wright at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.
The agenda item was a hot button topic for several of the council members as they questioned the general fund balance, which is $2,773,234.
Mayor Pro Tem Gary Ross was disgruntled by the increase in expenditures, especially pertaining to staff salaries, the police department and the courts (the total budget amount for the courts is $32,156).
“As I looked over the budget, I was not happy to see the increase in expenditures,” Ross said. “All the increases seem to be from the expectation of pay raises.”
City Manager Dennis Burn explained to Ross that while the budget includes increases in salary, it is balanced and the city looks to be in great shape going forward. He also explained that the increase in the courts was because they added a new employee to the staff.
Councilman James Starr addressed the issue of staff raises by saying, “the staff have been without raises for quite a while. They have done a very good job and should be compensated for the hard work they have put in.”
Wright said she didn’t like the format of the budget, and didn’t feel that it balanced. Burn said the budget was not only balanced, but they have been able to carry some things over, which makes for a great future for the city.
Also causing a major discussion to stir up among the council members before being approved were the expenditures for the month of August. Just before resigning as fire chief, Scott Mitchell attended a training, which was paid for by the city. Starr felt that Mitchell should be responsible for half of the payment since the city wasn’t able to capitalize on his training experience.
“I have a problem with the fact that we paid for his training, only to have him resign a few weeks later,” Starr said. “I think he should pay at least half of the expense since we aren’t going to benefit from his training knowledge.”
Burn said that he would reach out to Mitchell and discuss the issue at length with him to see if they could come to an agreement.
Wright said there were too many discrepancies concerning the ratification of the expenditures for her to approve them.
Everyone on the city council was in favor of approving the ad valorem tax rate ordinance for fiscal year 2013-2014.
“This agenda item is for adopting the maintenance and operations tax rate, the principal and interest on the general obligation debt tax rate and the total tax rate,” Burn said. “Each of the items are required to be voted on separately. The vote by each individual member of the council must be recorded by a show of hands.”
He said that all of the items were very important to the city, and he thanked the city council members for approving them.
City council members also approved the way-finding signs resolution showing their support of the sign system plan and the installation of the signs in seven downtown locations.
Economic Development and Main Street Director Chuck Dart made a brief presentation to the city council concerning the locations, sign style choices, specific sign types and prices. He said this was a Ferris Main Street project that began about two years ago, and the cost is approximately $8,000 for 12 signs.
“We had 11 destinations, one of those being City Hall,” Dart said. “After receiving suggestions from city council members we reduced it to seven locations.”
He said the way-finding signs are a means of directing visitors to the historic downtown district and other places of interest.
Burn added that the city has sufficient funding in the current 2012-2013 budget and the next fiscal year’s budget to pay for the signs, hardware and mounting posts. He said the signs will be installed by city employees.
Burn also introduced the city’s new public works director to the members of the council at Tuesday’s meeting. Burn said Charles Brewer has more than 20 years of professional work experience in various public works operations.
“He was most recently the director of public works for the city of Red Oak,” Burn said. “He is familiar with our area and has extensive experience in street maintenance and water/wastewater operations. He has all three required TCEQ Water and Wastewater Operator License to operate our water and sewer systems.”
Brewer addressed the city council by saying he is very appreciative for the opportunity, and he is looking forward to serving the city of Ferris.
In other action, city council members received a brief training by Information Technology Director Doug Childers on the new electronic voting system. City council members hope to have the new voting system in place within a month.
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