Manila Council approves operating budget

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Town Crier News Staff

Manila City Council held its first meeting of the 2007 year Monday, Jan. 15, welcoming new council member Don E. Wagner. Business included budget comparison for 2006, approving the 2007 operating budget, increasing salaries for elected officials, approving rental for airport hangar, and year end report from the fire department.

Before getting into the city's business, Mayor Clifford Veach and council members heard a presentation from Connie Adams representing the Manila Public School.

Adams explained the Manila School District is one of four schools in the state selected to participate in the Arkansas Leadership Academy's school support program.

"We are in the process of creating a new vision and mission for our school system," she said. "We are holding public meetings and meeting with different groups and organizations asking for input. We want patrons involved in the planning of programs to help create success both academically and in life for our students.

"We want to involve all of our stakeholders, which include parents, students, teachers and our community. The three questions we are asking are: What is it you want Manila School District to be? What is it you want Manila School District to provide children? Where would you like Manila School District to go in the future? As civic leaders, we would like to hear from you as a group or individuals."

Adams said the answers to the questions and all other suggestions will be compiled to help create the new vision and mission for Manila Public School.

Mayor Veach reviewed the year-end budget comparison going over each budgeted account.

"I've reviewed it and for the most part, I am pleased," Veach said. "There are some unexpected things that happen every year, but we handled them well. All in all, it was a good year financially."

Fire Chief Jerry Hitchcock gave an informative yearly report on the fire department. Hitchcock said the resolution passed in Manila in 2005 is in the municipal handbook this year.

Manila currently has 22 firemen. Hitchcock presented a list of firefighters, the percentage of meetings/drills and fires attended by each during the past year.

"We are pretty close to what the resolution is created for," Hitchcock said.

"We responded to 23 fires in 2006 with nine house fires, three mobile home fires, four grass fires and six vehicle fires," Hitchcock said. "We have seven new guys. We had four men retire and one resignation last year. I think the fire department is in good shape. We have some good people who are working hard. We knew we would eventually lose some of the members to retirement someday, but we did not expect to lose five in one year. We lost a lot of experience. We want to continue to get people in the training programs.

"As far as I can calculate, we have 13 out of the 22 on the insurance program."

Hitchcock reported the fire department had 47 meetings last year. He said the firefighters will be meeting twice a month this year for a total of 26 meetings.

Council reviewed the proposed 2007 operating budget and passed Ordinance 2007-1 adopting the budget.

Mayor Veach presented council members with a copy of all account balances and certificate of deposits. He said if there were no objections he would like to place $150,000 from the general fund, $100,000 from the water fund, $50,000 from the airport fund, $30,000 from the swimming pool fund and $20,000 from the water meter deposit fund in CDs.

"I feel we need to be drawing more interest on the city's money," Veach said. "I don't foresee we would have to pull it out in the next six months. If there is no objection that is the route I will go."

Council members were in agreement.

Mayor Veach recommended approval of salary increases for elected officials.

"It has been a long time since the salaries has been raised," Veach said. "The last time a Mayor had a raise was in 1991 and it has been several years since the council, city attorney or clerk had a raise. A lot of people think it is a snap being involved in city government, but it is not. The city is well off financially, and I would like to see us do this."

Veach proposed giving council members, mayor and clerk a 50 percent increase and the city attorney a 20 percent increase in salary. The increase raised council salaries from $100 a month to $150 a month; mayor's salary from $750 a month to $1,125; city attorney from $525 to $630 a month.

Councilman Douglas said the city is going good.

Council members voted unanimously in favor of the salary increases.

The council approved renting one of the Manila Municipal Airport hangars to Don Folden for $200 a month starting Feb. 1 and ending Dec. 1. Folden had the city's boll weevil contract last year. Veach said Folden is talking about having at least one mechanic at the airport to do repairs. Mayor Veach and Councilman Larry "Whiz" Davis both said Folden has been good to work with.

The council approved the contract.

Following a short executive session, city council members voted unanimously to extend the duties of Steve Bowman as a full time city employee. Bowman has worked part-time for the city for several years as the animal control officer which will continue to be his primary responsibility. The council agreed to pay Bowman $9.15 an hour until May at which time his pay will increase to $10 an hour in May, along with other employees who will be ready to top out.

Mayor Veach said the general account is getting a balance and he would like everyone to be thinking of projects for the good of the community and the city.

Councilman Douglas said it might be a good idea to look at a safe house project. Councilman Dwight booth said he had been approached about sidewalks

The Manila City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. the third Monday of each month.

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