Vidalia aldermen set to vote on proposed budget for third time

Published 12:38 am Monday, May 8, 2017

VIDALIA— Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft hopes the third time will be the charm on Tuesday in getting the town’s proposed budget passed so leaders can begin the real work of adopting a 2017-18 budget.

Craft has previously put the proposed budget up for approval in February and April, and both times the same three aldermen — Sabrina Doré, Tron McCoy and Tommy Probst — voted against it.

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The adopted budget, Craft said, is going against state statute in that expenditures come in over revenues, in this case by approximately $4.9 million. The administration’s proposed budget would come in with revenues approximately $2 million more than expenditures.

While Doré would not outright say she would approve the budget, Doré said she was proud of the work the mayor and town administration have done.

“I understand that a budget has to be passed,” Doré said “I absolutely want to get that done, without question, I want to get that budget passed so we can be in compliance.

“My no votes previously were simply because I did have issue with the numbers. What has been presented most recently, the proposed budget, those concerns have largely been addressed.”

Probst said Friday he had not had a chance to review the latest budget, but that he hoped concessions were made which he and Doré have brought up about salary imbalance in the town.

Doré said the aldermen received notice of the budget on April 27, but an additional version with changes was sent out on Friday.

Craft said the largest difference between the April 27 version and Friday’s was fixing an error to utilities where approximately $500,000 was not being included in revenues.

The mayor needs to make cuts to the administration budget, Probst said. Doré asked for an 11-percent decrease because adding a town manager position has made Craft’s administrative budget larger than the previous administration’s.

“If he has not cut anything in administration, then I will have concerns,” Probst said. “If you want to save money, let’s start from the top.”

Craft has argued his administration is $25,000 less than the previous administration — former mayor Hyram Copeland had an assistant to the mayor, who was Glen McGlothin, and Craft calls that position town manager, a post held by Bill Murray.

Probst said he and Doré gave back their $600 incentive payments around the holidays, which he thought was illegal since he did not feel he had done anything out of what his duties called for.

Probst said he would also like to see the mayor make good on his promise to either provide rebates for customers or lower the utility bills.

“Until the budget decreases, more than what he already says he has done, we won’t see that,” Probst said. “Some in the town are wondering when that will be coming.”

Doré said she does believe some people in the town on payroll are not being paid fairly, but she said that’s an issue she’ll take up with the 2017-18 budget.

“This late in the game, I can’t ask him to make any changes to payroll,” she said. “The money has already been spent. During the upcoming budget talks, I will be having conversations with both the mayor and the police chief.”

Another concern of Doré, and McCoy’s, had been fluctuation between the proposed budget revisions. Some changes were made to the current proposed budget and Doré said she believes it is a more accurate depiction of the town’s financials.

“I understand a budget can fluctuate, but allowing more time for actuals to come in, I think we have a much better picture of what the year-end will look like,” Doré said.

Looking over the budget, Doré said she had a concern that the mayor did not include transfers of money between various funds. While she said having the transfers would be good for transparency to the community, Doré said she would not vote no for this reason.

Doré said as she continues to go over the modified budget, she will gather her thoughts and she expects to request some addendums.

“Hopefully they will be entertained,” she said.

McCoy could not be reached for comment, but has previously said he voted yes to the adopted budget and saw no need to throw it out.

Craft said Friday he would be happy to include transfers. Craft said his concern with transfers is they add an element to the sheet that is confusing for something that is immaterial.

Transfers are simply moving money from funds that do make money to funds that do not to pay the bills, Craft said.

“What it boils down to, really, is numbers that don’t mean anything other than to balance the books,” he said.

Craft acknowledges that in his administration’s first year, adjustments have been made as they go through the proposed budgets. Craft said the budget has been a team effort between department heads, aldermen and the administration. Many department heads told Craft his was the first time they were involved in the budget process, he said.

“This is our first year, and as these things have settled out, we are almost right on target with what we want,” Craft said. “A budget is strictly a plan for our future revenues and expenditures. It is a guideline to use as a tool to run a town. It also appropriates money for me to spend to run our town.”

Craft said he hopes on Tuesday he can get at least three aldermen to vote yes so the town can begin working on the 2017-18 budget.

“One of the things we did not do this year, that will be in this upcoming year’s budget will be presenting our plan of capital projects, things we want to get done,” Craft said. “We need to be working on that now instead of trying to convince the board that we need to get this approved, so we can start doing the real work of using this budget I am presenting as a model to build the upcoming year’s budget.”