The City of Clinton was able to approve its 2019 budget in late December. The just-over $2 mil budget reflected minor changes from 2018, save for an increase in Fire Department funding.

Mayor Richard McCormac said Clinton sales tax revenue was actually up slightly for the year. The budget work sheet showed “Sales tax above debt” at $97,000 for 2019, compared to $93,100 for 2018

The Fire Department addition was $17,415 going into 2019, moving that department’s budget to $120,669. Fire Chief DL Webb had, during the city budget meetings, called out the pressing need for his department.

“The department is hurting,” Webb said at the budget planning meeting, citing the fire department’s budget being cut over the past four years, coupled with the loss of the $1.50 per customer fire department fee what had been put on the Clinton Water Department bills, removed approximately three years ago when it was determined to be improper.

A proposed tax to aid Clinton Fire Department funding was turned down by voters earlier in 2018.

After the budget was passed, Webb said the additional monies – which will be used for equipment maintenance – was “basically to get us back to where we need to be.”

The monies will be used maintenance on the buildings and trucks, as well as necessary work on radio repeaters, Webb said.

Clinton Police Department actually had a very slight lowering of its budget for the coming year. Police Chief John Willoughby told the council that part of his plan for 2019 was to move the department to a Tier System pay scale, where officers are placed on an established pay grade based upon time in service with the department.

That department moved from $566,584 budget for 2018 to $563,849 for 2019.

One increase in law enforcement expense was the city now being required to pay a per-day per-inmate fee for Van Buren County Jail Prisoners. The fee, at $53 per day, was passed at the last Quorum Court meeting – the same meeting where the county’s 2019 budget was passed.

In an interview at that time then Judge-elect Dale James, who assumed the role of Van Buren County Judge Jan. 1, said the fee, paid by departments for inmates in the county jail, was intended to offset costs on such matters as 911 fees. The 911 costs, in turn, had been in contention earlier this year when it was found phone fees would not be enough to sustain 911 operations into the coming year.

Clinton was, in approving its 2019 budget, able to raise the amount it pays to the Senior Citizens program, moving from $2,700 per month in 2018 to $3,000 per month. This was designed to compensate for cuts made in the county budget process, which lowered its contribution to the Senior Program. (The program provides, among its offerings, meals for area seniors.)

The budget remains “tight” for 2019, McCormac said. In introducing the planning for 2019 to the council and department heads, he pointed out the potential cost for pending litigation, as well as the possible impact on emergency services in should an unplanned event take place.