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City budget approval meeting chaotic, contentious, confusing

Budget approval Facing camera from left are: Ward Four Alderman Will Tucker, Ward Two Alderman Johnny Anderson, Mayor Tim Kent, and City Attorney Regan Russell. Standing with backs to camera are Marketing Director Sean Johnson and Ward One Alderman Amy Livingston

After months of tedious budget approval work and a sometimes contentious debate, New Albany aldermen approved a budget which increases spending in the coming fiscal year by $44,237.

The New Albany Board of Aldermen approved the FY 2017-18 budget in a public meeting Thursday evening, Sept. 14, 2017. State law requires that municipal budgets be approved not later than the 15th of September each year.

The New Albany budget for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017, was $6,801,354. Spending of $6,845,591 is authorized for the fiscal year starting October 1, 2017.

The amount of budget approval increase can be expressed as a decimal of 0.006504 (0.65%) or a fraction amounting to sixty-five one hundredths of one percent (65/100ths of one percent).

Republican majority abandons employee raise limitation

This year’s municipal elections resulted in a Republican majority on the Board of Aldermen, perhaps for the first time in the history of the city:

  • Keith Conlee was elected as a Republican as the city’s Alderman at Large.
  • Amy Livingston, a Republican, was elected as Alderman for Ward One.
  • Will Tucker, a two-term Republican, was re-elected to a third four-year term.

The new Republican majority on the city board challenged the practice in recent years of giving city employees a three-percent (3%) cost-of-living raise each year. In earlier board meetings, the Republicans majority approved a budget measure giving city workers a pay increase of just one-and-one-half percent (1.5%) for the coming year.

However, during the final budget meeting Thursday evening, Alderman-at-Large Keith Conlee said he’d had a “change of heart,” and made a motion to reconsider and repudiate the earlier action limiting raises to 1.5%.  Conlee said that, although he was uncomfortable with the continued practice of a yearly 3% increase, he understood that city workers had come to expect the 3% increase each year. He said he believed it would be more fair to city employees to go ahead with the 3% increase for the upcoming year, but to make it clear that such increases would not necessarily follow in subsequent years. Conlee said he thought city workers deserved a “heads up” before the practice is changed.

Conlee’s motion to repudiate the 1.5 percent increase passed with a four-to-one majority. Second Ward Democrat Alderman, Johnny Anderson, and Third Ward Democrat Alderman, Kevin Dale White, joined Conlee and Livingston in voting to set aside the 1.5% limitation. Republican Alderman Will Tucker was the sole dissenting vote on Conlee’s motion.

A motion was then entered to give most city workers a 3% increase during the coming year. Anderson, Conlee, Livingston and White joined in a voice vote to approve the 3% increase. When Mayor Tim Kent asked if there were any dissents, Alderman Tucker did not vote an audible “no.” It was unclear to this observer whether or not Tucker voted for the 3% increase. That will be resolved when the minutes of Thursday night’s meeting are approved.

There was also a chaotic discussion about making, or not making, changes in the budgets of the Magnolia Civic Center (MCC) and the city’s marketing operation during the coming year. The board voted to approve budgets for both departments, but it was not clear to this reporter and other observers what, if any, changes had been made. A clear narrative from the board of what it had intended and done would be most helpful. For those interested, NAnewsweb.com recommends watching the video of the Thursday night budget approval meeting posted on the website of TV99. That link is below.

Continuing criticism sparks response

Alderman Livingston, who ran an aggressive and successful campaign calling for “change” and “vision” has been the most outspoken of the new Republican aldermanic majority. She has made herself available as a speaker for meetings of garden clubs and civic clubs. In previous board meetings she has been critical of city practices and appears to have been the leader of the attempt to reduce the amount of city employees’ raises and other budgetary changes.

Alderman Livingston is an advocate of hiring a consultant to develop a “comprehensive strategic plan” for the city. She expressed exasperation with what she called “no vision” and “no planning.” This brought a plainly worded response from Alderman Anderson. Also, a few citizens expressed from the floor their opinions as to what changes might be made and how speedily they should be done.

The Thursday meeting during which a city budget was approved lasted about an hour and twenty minutes.

NAnewsweb.com urges interested readers to watch the TV99 video, especially starting at approximately the 37 minute point, to witness these exchanges. That very interesting part of the Thursday meeting lasts approximately 25 minutes on the video.

Here’s the link to the TV99 video of the full Thursday evening budget meeting: TV99 New Albany budget approval video.

2017-2018 Budget Documents (converted to PDF format by NAnewsweb.com):

2017-2018 Original Document (May require your download approval): Budget 2017-2018 (1) ed

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1 Comment on City budget approval meeting chaotic, contentious, confusing

  1. Seriously, was this a board meeting or Dr. Phil? T. Young either needs to run for alderman. This political diatribe supporting the board and all the great changes they’ve made is a waste of time. The meetings shouldn’t be a time of patting people on the back. Get back to business!

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