HOGANSVILLE — Hogansville narrowly passed its budget in a 2-1 vote Thursday after one councilman voiced his frustration at last minute changes.
A proposed 1 percent increase for all employees was previously removed from the budget at council members’ request in order to reduce expenses. However, the raise was added back in the last draft reviewed by council members Thursday — the last day Council could vote on the budget — along with $1,000 in training and travel expenses for each council member and the mayor, a total $6,000. Councilman Jimmy Norred was upset with the last minute additions.
“The day we’re going to take the vote on the budget, the 1 percent is added back in, and by the request of some council members, the travel and training expense is going up,” Norred said. “… It’s just beyond me that we sat here for two months, pouring over this budget with council members saying we need to look at every dime, we need to cut, cut, cut wherever we can, and we leave here last week with an agreement — with a draft agreement of a budget, and the day we’re going to take the vote, it gets changed.”
Norred said he didn’t agree with the changes, saying employees have had raises for at least the last three years. He also referred to the council’s recent approval of a 1 percent increase in utility franchise costs, which puts more burden on tax payers who are paying for employees’ raises, he said.
Councilwoman Theresa Strickland supported the raise, saying that past raises have been about 2 to 3 percent, but 1 percent was a relatively low amount. Mayor Bill Stankiewicz said he requested the raise be added back after Strickland spoke to him about it and they agreed it was a relatively small increase. He added if one employee leaves due to not receiving a raise, the cost would be more than the $15,000 price tag for the 1 percent raise.
Strickland also spoke in favor of the travel and training increase. A junior council member, Strickland said she wanted to be able to take advantage of some of the training opportunities to better serve her constituents.
City Manager James Woods said after the meeting that the change also gave a concrete amount each council member can use for travel and training at their discretion — until they hit the budgeted amount — instead of the budget being an estimate of how much travel and training will cost.
When it came time to vote, Strickland moved to approve the budget and Councilman Fred Higgins seconded, and they voted in favor of the current budget. Norred was opposed. Council members Reginald Jackson and George Bailey were not present during the meeting.
The final budget shows general fund revenue of $2,592,121 to $2,584,295 in expenses.
The police department accounts for the majority of the city’s spending at about $1.41 million, followed by administration at $587,732, streets at $259,935 and intergovernmental at $251,852.
Administration costs include salaries and benefits for city administrative staff and council members along with expenses like phone service, utilities, equipment and supplies for City Hall, and travel and training costs for council members.
Intergovernmental expenses include payment for services and contributions to area agencies. The majority of the expense is $205,262 paid to the Troup County Fire Department for fire protection; the city does not have a fire department.
Other intergovernmental contributions include $15,000 to the Boys and Girls Club, $12,000 for demolition of condemned structures, $5,000 to the Troup County Center for Strategic Planning, $3,090 to the Three Rivers Regional Commission and $1,000 to the Hogansville Library Board.
Matthew Strother is the editor of LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2153.