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City nixes paid firefighter
council w L
The city council adopted a new $7.8 million budget ordinance on first reading Monday night.The aldermen voted 3 to 2 to accept the plan, which will not include any new paid full-time firefighter positions. The city is apparently looking at a general-fund deficit of more than $344,000 for the 2013-14 fiscal year, and some council members voiced concerns about adding the recurring expense of a new paid firefighter.Aldermen Tim Stribling, Jason Murphy, and Danny Washer voted in favor of the budget, while Shawn Jacobs and Gayla Hendrix cast dissenting votes.A public hearing will be held on June 17 at 7 p.m. at city hall, followed by second and final reading of the proposal.Officials drew up two versions of the budget to be considered Monday night.One proposal included the addition of a full-time firefighter at $41,000 per year, including salary, payroll taxes and benefits.The other plan, which the aldermen chose, did not include a new firefighter.The city's financial advisor, Janice Plemmons-Jackson, told the board that the proposal with the firefighter would have increased the city’s deficit to $385,000 by the end of the fiscal year.The city is still expected to end the year with a deficit of a little more than $344,000 without the inclusion of a paid fireman.During a budget workshop last week, Jackson had forecast that the budget should result in a slight deficit, but the discovery of an omission concerning the pending airport fuel-farm project will apparently put the city much deeper in the red.“I have found a math error and made a correction, so the numbers are worse in the general fund,” Jackson said.“We're now projecting a $344,000 deficit in current revenues to current expenses, but if you do the additional firefighter it's about a $385,000 deficit,” she told the board.Stribling made a motion to adopt the proposal that did not include another paid firefighter, telling the assembly that he was uncomfortable with adding the expense without additional funding.“I would like to add a firefighter, or two, three, four, five or however many, but it's got to have a funding source,” Stribling said.“It's a recurring expense every year. I just don't see where we're able to take one on at this time so I make a motion that we adopt the budget with no additional fire employee.”Murphy seconded the motion.Jacobs, who also holds the office of police and fire commissioner, suggested cutting then budget in other areas to fund another firefighter.