Clinton City Council met Monday night in a work group to finalize the city’s budget for next year. The budget, just over $2 mil, is projected to be relatively the same as the 2017 budget, with line-item changes to meet changing demands.
A delay in organizing budget projection came as the city waited for the outcome of last month’s fire-tax special election. The quarter-cent sales tax to support the Clinton Fire Department was rejected by voters.
The most significant discussion was regarding the Police Department budget. In that budget, City of Clinton Police Chief John Willoughby had made adjustments, most notably by removing overtime pay, in order to fund a request from the Sheriff’s office that the city double its jail fee contribution, originally set at $12,000 per year by then-sheriff Scott Bradley.
Van Buren County Sheriff Randy Gurley had asked the city to increase its contribution to $25,000 per year in an earlier meeting. The Van Buren County Quorum Court Budget Committee supported Gurley in making this request.
Several council members, led by Councilman Jeff Pistole, spoke against the increase for the jail fee. One point of contention was that the police department officer currently use personal guns as side arms, which could be corrected by the same $12,000 being proposed by Willoughby for jail fee increase.
With the different side arms, in a critical situation officers would not be able to share ammunition or ammunition magazines, Willoughby pointed out to Pistole’s point. It was further pointed out that against this, the sheriff’s department is budgeting new uniforms and has same-source sidearms.
“We could just eliminate the police department. Then what would their expense be for the county then?” Pistole said.
Further debate included a discussion of the police department’s increase in citations written in the past year over previous years, each of which represent revenue for the city and county both.
A second component was more political: The forthcoming election for a new sheriff. It was discussed that a new sheriff could have different budget priorities, such as Bradley did when he set the jail fee at $12,000. Gurley, who as an appointee is not eligible for re-election as sheriff, was ultimately creating a temporary need, Pistole stated, and several council members agreed.
Councilman Tim Barnes stated he didn’t want to remove $12,000 from overtime in light of safety being the primary goal of funding police. Willoughby said the overtime would be realigned to a comp-time arrangement.
The matter remained on the table as the meeting was adjourned, Willoughby still presenting to the group. The debate is expected to continue at the next budget meeting, Monday, Dec. 11.
In other budget matters
Parks Department head Charles Wilson presented that the one-ton Dodge truck operated by his department needed a new transmission.
In the same discussion, the council agreed that an adjustment was needed to the street departments brush-collection, as doing so has kept Wilson’s department tied up, often, for several days a week on top of their existing duties.
The city is pricing for a bucket truck, the money in an existing fund.
City of Clinton Mayor Richard McCormac is counting on volunteers to help with the final details in providing lighting for the tennis courts at the city park.