As I mentioned on my Twitter account, I had a good visit with Searcy Mayor David Morris on Friday morning. We spent about two hours discussing the tax proposal and the city budget.
Here are some facts that he shared with me:
- The 2012 budgeting process starts Monday (yesterday) and will be passed in November or December.
- The budget “cushion”–which he defined as projected revenues minus projected spending–was about 3%-4% for 2011.
- The mayor wants a 10% budget cushion and promises to achieve this by the end of his first term.
- Over the past 3 years, the city has been financing a lot of capital:
- 15 new police cars in 2009
- 5 police cars in 2010
- 1 fire engine, priced at $490,000 with approximately 1.7% interest. This will take 6 years to pay off.
- They also bought 5 police cars this year, but they were paid in cash.
- Morris says that the plans for financing these vehicles were put into place by the previous leadership and, in the case of the fire engine, could not be stopped.
- He promised that he would not finance any more vehicles while he his mayor.
- Morris also said that the city reduced its employees by ‘3 or 4’ this year and will continue reduce the number of city employees in 2012.
- The mayor showed me receipts from various city departments, and demonstrated the oversight process that he has implemented, which includes reviewing every receipt of every expense and requiring initials from department heads as well.
As we have been discussing, it is time for real reforms in Searcy government and I am glad to see that Mayor Morris has already started implementing some changes that will help get us where we want to be as a city. There is still a lot to be done, but these are steps in the right direction. In tough economic times, everyone has to tighten their belts, and city government is no exception.
I asked the mayor what it will take to have the entire city budget published online. He said he supports this idea and hopes to accomplish this in the near future, but he is still getting settled in and trying to sort out some of the residual budgetary problems.
I will make a separate post shortly about my discussion with the mayor regarding the upcoming special tax election.