A budget with a 3 percent cost of living increase for Daleville City employees was passed at the council meeting Oct. 5.
With Mayor Pro Tem Katheryne Horace presiding at the meeting due to the illness of Mayor Jayme Stayton, the council approved the 3 percent cost of living increase for city employees, with the exception of the police officers—who received a pay adjustment previously—and salaried personnel.
“We had two work sessions before passing the budget,” Horace told those attending the Oct. 5 council meeting. “The first is where the department heads came in and presented their budgets with ‘wish lists.’ The second is where the city council met to discuss the department proposals among themselves.
“I want to express appreciation for all that our city departments do,” Horace said. “They do a lot to serve our citizens here in Daleville and we appreciate them.
“I want you to know that the council looked very hard look at the budget and we did the best we could while still being in compliance with our budget requirements,” she said. “We were able to to include a 3 percent cost of living pay increase and that is just a small token of how much we appreciate everybody and what they are doing.”
At the first budget work session held Sept. 20, Stayton told the council that the city department heads were aware of the city’s financial situation going into the new budget year but that they would present “wish list” items to make the council aware of what each department head would like to purchase.
“I think we need to focus on the employee’s raises,” Stayton said at the budget meeting Sept. 20. “Some of this stuff we could squeak by another year without but we have to have raises. As the mayor, I see keeping people here and trying to recruit people here as a priority.”
Marc Nelson, a Certified Public Accountant with Dothan-based McClintock, Nelson and Associates told the council at the Sept. 20 work session that the city’s finances, in total, are “in a good financial position,” but that the budget he was presenting did “not have one penny of capital outlay.”
Nelson said that the 5.9 percent increase in the city’s cost of health insurance for employees, which starts in January, is an expense out of the city’s control. The city pays 100 percent of the employee health insurance cost and 50 percent of family health insurance coverage.
“Some actual spending in some departments was way over budget but as far as the city as a whole is concerned, the adherence to the budget was a lot better this year,” Nelson added.
“Without any sort of capital outlay, we are projecting a $278,000 shortfall in the General Fund,” Nelson explained. “The only way to balance the budget is called ‘Utilization of Fund Balance’ where we’re basically dipping into the equity of the city to pay that deficit and y’all have done that the last several years.
“In 2019, the General Fund balance decreased about $800,000 and most of that was due to capital outlay because we had some huge projects in those years that you paid for—you bought equipment, trucks, police cars and that pulled that number down but you can’t keep doing that,” he said. “Our fund balance right now at the end of last year was $2,115,000.”
Nelson said that annually he talks to the finance firm that handles the city’s bond purchases. “And their question a couple of weeks ago is are we going to budget a negative general fund deficit,” he told the council. “It’s going to come to a point where it is going to affect your bond rating. I can’t tell you where that point is but we are not real far off from it because you have a $2,115,000 fund balance and it takes you close to $1 million to just to operate with a couple of months’ salaries for the whole city and enough to pay all your bills for a couple of months. You cannot deplete that down.
“Last year it was $400,000 deficit in the General Fund instead of this $250,000 so that is good but it makes it difficult on you if you fund everybody’s wish list.”
“So, tightening our belt did work somewhat?” Councilwoman Jo Reese asked Nelson.
“As a city as a whole, you did a better job this year,” Nelson agreed.
“We have to get a plan. We have four more years that we are responsible for this,” said Councilman Jimmy Monk. “We have got to look at our expenses citywide and figure out how to get rid of that deficit some way.”
“The city has to have $1 million to operate safely—and you have that— but I am not sure how much lower it could go before it would affect your bond rating and that affects your ability to borrow when you need these projects,” Nelson explained “You don’t want to mess with that because it’s more expensive to borrow if you have a lower bond rating.”
In other business, Daleville Area Chamber of Commerce Director Michelle Powell said that Oct. 15 is the last day to purchase tickets for the Inaugural Boys & Girls Club of Daleville’s Fundraising Banquet and Silent Auction to be held Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. at the Daleville Cultural and Convention Center. Retired longtime Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Trooper and currently Ozark Police Chief Charles Ward is the keynote speaker. Tickets may be purchased by contacting Joel Adams at (334) 494-5182 or April Spencer at (334) 709-4600 or dir.bgc.dalevilleal.com.
Powell said the chamber is hosting a Scrabble Run Saturday, Oct. 16, which begins at the chamber office at 9 a.m. and ends at Chopper’s Ol’ School BBQ. An arts and crafts fair will be on-site at the restaurant.
Trick or Treat in the Park is Oct. 30 from 6 until 8 p.m. at Culpepper Park, Powell added. “This event was a big hit last year. Set up a tent or trunk and give out candy or bring your little ones to participate in the fun.”
The next meeting of the Daleville City Council is Oct. 19 at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at the Daleville City Hall. The meeting is open to the public.