Today is Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tonight's work session will address city budget

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The work session will be held at the City of Lebanon Administration Building in the Town Meeting Hall at 5:30 p.m.


During last weeks meeting, the council managed to trim the citys deficit down to $930,000 from the previous figure of $1.8 million. To get there, the council is planning to use $583,000 that was left over from borrowing from the Rainy Day Fund in the previous year. The council also chose to remove raises for city employees to save an additional $237,000.


The council has asked for more cuts from the administration and has proposed cutting an extra pay day to save an additional $30,600 and cuts on fuel use, training and overtime.


What are you going to decide is the important stuff for this city, the infrastructure or parks, the infrastructure, or the Senior Citizens Center, the infrastructure or the Jimmy Floyd Center, said Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler during the councils budget work session last Wednesday.


During that meeting, Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath suggested the Senior Center should hold more fundraisers with private businesses to generate more revenue. She said the city could cut back on the $165,000 it gives to the Center each year if they had more fundraisers.


She questioned how much money Craighead had personally donated to the Center from his Whip Crackin Rodeo fundraiser.


Craighead said the Rodeo generated $38,000 and he gave $1,000 of that to the Senior Citizens Center, but also pointed out he has given to many local charitable and non-profit organizations.


Ill put my donations up against yours any day, Warmath said, I personally donated $25,000 last year to charities.


Craighead said the budget work session was not the time to discuss their personal donations but Warmath said not everyone has city resources available for their fundraisers, in reference to the Rodeo.


The Mayor insisted he has never used city resources or equipment in organizing or putting on the Rodeo, which is held at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center.


Its not about giving, its all about politics, Warmath said.


The argument even prompted a local resident in attendance to speak up and voice her displeasure with the elected officials. I think we need to not fight but work together, she said.


Later in the work session, when the council discussed the citys infrastructure and quality of life issues, Craighead said that people are attracted to the city by a combination of parks, infrastructure and places like the Jimmy Floyd Center.


Some members of the council expressed frustration with having to work on the budget so late in the year and said they should have begun the process at least in March. Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino suggested having a policy that requires them to begin the budget in March.


Mayor, with all due respect, you should be having some things up here and put it up for a vote, Buhler said.


Craighead pointed out he had given the council several proposals for possible property tax increases, a sanitation fee or a combination of the two. However, Buhler argued that they were given to the council too late.


Another major point of contention during last weeks meeting was in regards to the citys Concrete Program that gives local students an opportunity to gain experience and certification in concrete work by pouring sidewalks across the city.


Craighead said the program has allowed at least seven local students to find jobs in the industry making around $40,000 a year. Currently there is one instructor left for the program as two were hired out-of-state as well as several students.


I think we ought to eliminate that and give it back to the local people, Buhler said, referring to allowing local contractors to do the sidewalk work.


Craighead insisted the program allows the city to save thousands of dollars by not having to bid the work out. Much of the programs work is to meet deadlines set in a previous lawsuit against the city that requires it to meet standards of the American Disability Association and Americans with Disabilities Act.


Were meeting ADA requirements, weve saved money, weve put a program together that has found seven jobs for our local kids, Craighead said.


The next deadline for the program is December 2012, with many streets in town set to have new or repaired sidewalks by that date. Whether the council cuts the program out or not, Jeff Baines, Commissioner of Public Works, said the deadline has to be met regardless.


We will meet that deadline one way or another, Baines said. If we cant do it through this program, were going to have to bid the work out; the money is in the budget either way.


Buhler said he has seen eight full-time city employees working with the program and said the city is losing money by not having those employees doing their regular jobs. He asked that the program be cut from the budget.


How can you not support a program that has this much benefit, Craighead asked.


The council left the meeting abruptly with a call for adjournment by Cesternino amidst arguing.

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