By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
The city of Grayson approved their budget during their regular meeting last Tuesday, including pay raises of $2 per hour for all police personnel and a total police budget in excess of $1 million. But Mayor George Steele did not include funding for the Carter County Public Library in a budget he told council last month would be “tight” through September.
Director of the Carter County Library, Christy Boggs, spoke with council at the meeting to request the city renew the contract for their share of costs for the library, which in the past has been $25,000 paid in quarterly payments of $6,250. Steele told Boggs, though, that the city could not afford the cost at this time and that funding for the library was not included in the 2020-2021 budget. He told Boggs he supported the library in spirit, if not with funding, and had spoken with Carter County Judge Executive Mike Malone about having the county cover the full cost of library funding. Boggs said Steele invited her back to future meetings but told her he was “not budging with my decision” to cut library funding from the city budget.
Boggs has already taken an annual salary cut of more than $11,000 and said that without the funding the library would also have trouble meeting payroll for other library employees as well.
While there was no money available for the library, the city did approve a municipal order approving pay raises for certain city personnel, including an across the board pay raise of $2 per hour for Grayson police. Steele said last month that the raise was necessary to retain talent. Councilman Derrick McKinney voted “no” on the pay raise, which passed with a vote of five to one.
McKinney, who has expressed concerns in past meetings about the city’s budget because of lower tax revenue due to COVID-19 related closures of non-essential businesses, was also the lone “no” vote on approving the 2020-2021 budget. The budget passed shows a total fiscal expenditure of $2,633,193 with salaries making up $1,062,120 of the output and retirement another $220,275. Almost half of the city’s 2020-2021 budget was allocated for police department expenditures, including $452,188 for police salaries, $55,000 in overtime, $24,630 in double-time, and $154,500 in retirement, and a total police expenditure of $1,218,795.
Other expenditure totals in the budget included $394,413 for administrative expenditures, $515,905 for street expenditures, $396,130 for fire department expenditures, $26,500 for emergency management, $30,300 for parks, recreation and cultural expenditures – which used to include library funding, and $51,150 for alcoholic beverage control. With the $1,218,795 allocated for police this brings the total budgeted expenditures to $2,633,193.
In other action, council unanimously adopted a resolution for reimbursement for COVID-19 related expenses. The resolution allows the city to apply for reimbursement of certain COVID-19 related expenses through the CARES Act. Council also heard from an individual seeking changes to the city’s prohibition on livestock within city limits which would allow individuals to keep chickens within city limits.
Representative from the police department also addressed council, asking that, when a new police chief is hired to replace retiring Chief Kevin McDavid, council’s hire would be someone already within the department. Council also approved a request to transfer five vehicles from the police department to the fire department for the fire department to practice on.
City personnel told the Times in a phone call that the meeting would be live streamed through the city’s Facebook page, as past meetings have been since the COVID-19 pandemic led to social distancing recommendations, but the meeting was not streamed or video recorded. They also did not record audio of the meeting as they typically do. Meeting minutes and the budget were provided to the Times upon request.
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