Mayor John Dodd, who had given the proposed budget to the council at this month's regular meeting, had requested that the council members take the budget home and “go over it with a fine-toothed comb” so they would be able to come back with suggestions on how the city could save money.
After two weeks of going over the budget, the council agreed that there were several items on the budget that could possibly be changed, with councilman Robert Falls making several suggestions.
Falls has stressed over the course of the past several council meetings that the council was in dire need of exploring options to help the city cut back on unnecessary expenses and ways to save money.
Falls and other council members have said that cutting back on several expenditures would be of great benefit to the city.
“That's what we are here for — so that we can find ways to cut out some of the unnecessary expenses,” Dodd said during Tuesday's meeting.
Falls made several suggestions which might help save the city a substantial amount of money over the course of the next year, including cutting the budgeting of expenditures such as unnecessary police cruiser maintenance, police equipment, firehouse maintenance and cutting back on cell phone expenses.
“We have one police officer now, so that is going to eliminate some of the budget,” said Falls. “We've got four police automobiles — we have a (proposed) $1,500 for police car repairs, so let's knock that off for a year, and if you have one car go down you've got three others you can use until you absolutely have to have it. I mean, that's a suggestion.”
Falls also suggested that the city allow a maximum of $1,000 for police equipment, which includes mainly the officers' uniforms, suggesting that since the current one officer of the city already has his uniforms, that would allow the estimated $800 for another uniform if the city decides to hire a part-time officer to help with police duties.
Both Falls and council member Ruthie Wilson inquired about the $8,000 budgeted for the firehouse and vehicle supplies, saying that the fire department should not need such a sizable chunk of the city’s budget.
The council also agreed with Falls and Wilson that cutting the allowance for the firehouse and vehicle supplies from $8,000 to $2,000 would help the city substantially with saving money on the budget.
Dodd suggested the amount was listed due to the fact that the proposed budget was based on prior budgets and agreed with the council that cutting back on anything that would help the city save on expenditures was necessary.
“Firehouse, electrical, $1,000 — that's fine. We don't use that out there, but that's fine,” said Falls. “Playground equipment, I'll go with the $500 on that because I am all for the playground for the kids — that's what I'm for.”
The council also agreed to allow $500 annually for the use of a cell phone for the police department. However, the former plan that allowed a cell phone for all the city employees had already been canceled Monday by Dodd.
After a thorough breakdown and discussion of the suggested changes, the council members agreed to approve the budget. All council members were present to vote with the exception of George Massey and Doug Robinson.
The council also heard the second reading of an ordinance that will allow the citizens of Benham to vote for the merger of Tri-City services in November.
The council also approved the June financial report that was tabled from this month's regular meeting.
In other action before Tuesday's meeting, the city heard a special presentation from the city's auditor, Gary Williams, about several issues that he found fine with the city as well as a few suggestions and recommendations that he made that may help the city better maintain its finances.
Williams told the council that they would receive his published report on the audit within a couple of weeks.