2009-06-03 / Local News

City council approves first reading on "lean"budget

By LARRY HILLIARD Ledger Staff Writer larry@gaffneyledger.com

Gaffney City Council on Monday gave its approval on first reading to a $10.9 million budget that holds the line on taxes and salaries and that was described by the city administrator as "very, very, very lean."

The budget got even more lean when a divided council cut a $3,000 travel allowance for Gaffney Mayor Henry Jolly. The mayor originally made the request for a $2,800 allowance in a finance committee meeting.

At that meeting, finance committee chairman Bernard Smith suggested the allowance be rounded up to $3,000.

According to the mayor, the other finance committee member, Billy Love, said he had no problem with the travel allowance when it was proposed by Jolly.

But Love reserved his stance on Monday and offered a budget amendment to eliminate the mayor's travel allowance.

Council members Wayne Ramsey, Dennis Ramsey and Boone Peeler sided with Love. Councilman Tom Reid joined Smith and Jolly in opposition to the amendment.

Smith defended the appropriation, saying Jolly's travels helped obtain the necessary funds for the Beltline Boulevard sidewalk project. Federal stimulus money partially funded the sidewalk project but the city needed to secure additional money to move forward with it.

"It's $200,000 we wouldn't get if it wasn't for the mayor," Smith said. "Three thousand is just pennies and we should leave it in there."

Jolly then said he could defend himself, noting that his interactions with state officials helped to bring in about $1 million in grants and funds to the city during his 9-year tenure as mayor.

Wayne Ramsey took the travel cuts a step further by proposing council not pay the $1,600 it will cost to send each councilman to the S.C. Municipal Association summer meeting in Hilton Head. That motion also passed 4-3, with Peeler, Dennis Ramsey and Billy Love in the majority.

Previous to the travel battles, Administrator James Taylor said the revenues were down and expenditures increased over the previous year.

Taylor added he's concerned over the recent rise in fuel costs.

"This budget will require constant and close monitoring," Taylor said.

The budget does include some new fees. The city will charge organizations who want to temporarily close a street a fee to offset the city's costs. The city also will stop its practice of waiving permit fees.

Second reading of the budget is slated for June 15. The new budget goes into effect July 1.

Last year, council passed a $10.2 million budget that held the line on taxes.

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