Hernando city leaders have fashioned their budget for the new fiscal year, a budget that was agreed to in a special meeting on Sept. 5 at City Hall.
Cuts in each department that had earlier been requested by the Board of Aldermen, along with the movement of other funds, will allow for the Fiscal Year 2020 budget to be balanced. However, it will also mean a two-percent pay raise for city employees.
Members of the Board of Aldermen will not receive the same pay raise.
Money to cover street overlays will apparently take some of the biggest hits to accomplish the balanced budget. The proposal presented by Alderman Andrew Miller would move $243,000 from the overlay fund to cover the employee raises and $100,000 will be moved from street overlays to a contingenccy fund.
That proposal was passed on a 5-2 vote with Aldermen Michael McLendon and Jeff Hobbs voting against the plan.
Hobbs in particular, felt the budget plan was not realistic, and questioned the cut of $40,000 in overtime money by Police Chief Scott Worsham when the police budget was discussed.
"If you think we're going to get an extra $40,000 in revenue, just tell me what line item it will be," Hobbs said. "Overtime cuts of $40,000 are not happening."
Worsham indicated the past year has been unusual with extra overtime hours, but the overtime had to be paid.
"This year was very unfortunate as far as the number of sick officers that we've had," Worsham said of the overtime that has been paid for officers covering extra shifts. "Some of them are still off. We have to pay that overtime; we don't have a choice."
City leaders may also be looking at the number of extra officers that cover special events in Hernando, such as running events and festivals, as a mean of streamlining expenses even more.
Aldermen also went back to ask Fire Chief Hubert Jones about the need for a new fire truck. There was a suggestion that a stress test be done on the truck being replaced, but Jones said such a test, where the truck's engine is run at different RPM levels for extended periods of time, would actually hasten the end of life for a truck that has 15 years usage on record.
"That test guts a truck, it's rough on the truck," Jones told aldermen. "You've got 15 years of electric wiring that'll break down. It's a high risk."
Miller and Alderman "Doc" Harris then reminded Jones the city does have a fire truck in the budget for the coming year.
The proposal as presented will mean a balanced budget for the city, as required by law. The budget had to be approved by Sept. 15 to be put into effect on Oct. 1.
But you can look for a closer scrutiny of the budget situation during the months ahead that may result in adjustments in certain areas where cuts were made.
"We'll be better equipped this year because we're going to have financial figures each month that we can make sound decisions on," said Alderman Gary Higdon. "That's what we need. We've never had that before."
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.