While two members were absent during Tuesday’s specially called meeting, the New Albany Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a $5.3 million budget, including a three percent raise for city employees.
Neither Ward Four Alderman Bill Tucker nor Ward Two Alderman Johnny Anderson were present at the time of the vote. However Anderson worked closely with other board members on creating the budget for the fiscal year 2010-2011, which begins Oct. 1.
According to Anderson and New Albany Mayor Tim Kent, the board included a three percent raise for all employees this year as well.
“Last year, we only gave employees a one and a half percent raise and neither I nor the aldermen received a rase,” Kent said. “We felt like we needed to give everyone a raise this year.”
Anderson said that he was in favor of the employee raises, but that he and Alderman At Large Scott Dunnam were not in favor of a raise for the aldermen or mayor.
“The other members of the board did want to give those positions raises, so we went ahead and did that,” Anderson said.
The new budget does not include a raise in city government taxes, but does include an increase in city school district taxes – up from 59.05 mills in 2010 to 60.68 mills in 2011. The school district requested an increase in millage due to statewide budget cuts in education funds. While the school districts had hoped to receive funds from a recently-passed federal education bill this year, Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour has urged state lawmakers to postpone the distribution of those funds to the school districts until next year. New Albany School District Superintendent recently told the board that, at the present time, a decision on those funds had not been reached, and the school district decided to go ahead with its request in a millage increase.
The board also voted to decrease the amount of money that the city gave to the Union County Development Association this year. Instead, the aldermen decided to transfer tourism funds normally designated to UCDA projects like the Tallahatchie Riverfest and other promotions into a miscellaneous account.
According to Anderson, the board made this decision in order to keep a closer eye on the spending of tourism funds.
“We’re just trying to look at ways that we can maybe improve how we use our tourism money and be a little more accountable to our citizens,” Anderson said. “We want to seek an invoice for those events like Riverfest and others to see how the money is spent.”
Anderson said that the board has still earmarked the same amount of money to Riverfest and other events under UCDA supervision. The amount earmarked for Riverfest is $30,000.
The only funds that the city plans to give UCDA this year are $5,000 for the Freedom Celebration and $1,000 for the New Albany Christmas Parade.