City officials meet for 9th time to discuss budget

City officials meet for 9th time to discuss budget

OSCEOLA, AR (KAIT) - City leaders in Osceola will met for the 9th time to attempt to pass the 2015 budget.

The Osceola city council and finance committee first met on Dec. 8 to go over the proposed 2015 budget.

Mayor Dickie Kennemore said everyone who would be affected by the budget was involved in the entire process.

Two city council members didn't agree with the budget and asked for more time to review it.

The council met again on Dec. 10, this time with the requests of the department heads, the chamber board and the main street board.

"I called in 3 of the department heads with the city and had them present their individual department budgets and their wish list of what they thought they needed in additional equipment and miscellaneous items," Kennemore said.

On Jan. 11, all the requests of those departments were compiled in a list and later prioritized by the city council and finance committee using an ABC sorting method.

"A for what the city council and finance committee thought was a priority, B for maybe, and C to cut it completely out," Kennemore said.

From there, Kennemore and city Finance Director Cody Moore were told to complete a budget.

"One that would incorporate our normal expenditures, a 3% across the board pay raise for the employees and only the A list of those requested expenditures," he said.

Those requests contained several items.

"A street sweeper, 2 police cars, the request was 5 police cars but they only gave the police department two, and a bucket truck for the electric department," Kennemore said.

He said the list was developed by the council and finance committee in several working meetings.

According to Kennemore, the budget was formally presented at a meeting on Dec. 15 for consideration at the January meeting.

"Two or three on the council were still not satisfied with it," he said.

Kennemore said they requested another meeting on Jan. 8 to address additional cuts.

On that day he said they incorporated their requested cuts into the budget and submitted it to them.

"The vote was taken, and the vote was 8 to 1 to approve the budget and send it to the January council meeting for approval," he said.

Kennemore said he was caught off guard by what happened before that meeting.

"Four of the council members agreed amongst themselves to table the motion," Kennemore said. "It got back to me by a third party and I asked councilman Dunigan and he verified they agreed to table it."

Kennemore said he was told by Don Zimmerman, the director of the municipal league, that it was okay the budget was tabled, but something had to be done by Feb. 1.

Tabling the budget didn't do any good though.

"I couldn't pay the payroll that was coming up and other expenditures and payables," Kennemore said.

He said a council woman told him an attorney with the Municipal League told her that Mayor Kennemore could table the budget and continue spending.

Kennemore said that statement differed from what Zimmerman told him.

He went to Little Rock to meet with Zimmerman and legal staff and found out that wasn't true.

"I was told that nobody had talked to anybody from Osceola any day about any budget," Kennemore said.

He said Zimmerman reiterated it was okay to table the budget but he had to make specific authorization to make a payroll.

The paychecks of city employees were at risk until Wednesday night.

"I didn't have authority to make payroll on Thursday unless they gave me specific authorization to do," he said.

He says council members agreed to continue the 2014 budget, but it also included some additions including a 3% pay increase to city employees.

That decision helped the city avoid a shutdown. Kennemore said he wants council members to understand changes can be made.

"It can be passed as is, as it's presented, as developed by them, as approved by the city council and the finance committee and if they're still not happy with it, the council has full authority to amend it," he said.

Over the last month, Kennemore said he's had a hard time getting anything by the council and finance committee.

"I can't get any action on anything other than they did approve the payroll and that was because I believe their hand was forced on it," he said. "They didn't want to shut the city down."

He said the difficulty has even affected communication between him and the groups. He called for a meeting to go over the 2015 budget earlier Thursday afternoon. He said he understood two members would not be able to make it at that time, but he was not told council members rescheduled it to begin at a later time.

"I was not in the loop," he said. "Just as I wasn't in the loop with the tabling of the budget. They're just totally leaving me out of the process."

Kennemore said he has involved council members in every step of the way, but it seems like the council members prefer to operate on their own.

He said he hopes all of this will come to an end tonight before their Feb. 1 "D-day"

"Reason will prevail and we'll have a budget by Feb. 1," he said. "At least I hope that's what happens."

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