The Caraway City Council revised the city budget, addressed proposed sales tax, took reduction in salary and welcomed new business inquiries at the council meeting held Thursday, July 14.
Mayor Barry Riley reviewed his proposed revision to the city budget.
"We want to stretch the money we have to make it last through the year," Riley said. "Our budget needs to be revised to reflect those reductions. Right now we are not able to buy equipment this year, but hopefully things will get better in the future."
"You have done a good job on this revision," Councilman Marvin Browning said.
"This looks good and is a good start," Councilman Mark Bell said.
"We can look more in-depth as to where we can make some other cuts before we go any further," Councilman Austin Zamora said.
An emergency was declared, and Ordinance 2011-3, to revise the city's 2011 General Fund budget was passed on all three readings.
St. Francis Levee District representative Herbert Amsworth addressed the council concerning establishment of a new levee maintenance station in Caraway.
"The levee district was established in 1893," Amsworth said. "We have 160 miles of levee to maintain in Poinsett and Craighead Counties. We saw the need to locate a station here in Caraway. We have three stations in this area - Widener, Frenchman's Bayou and West Memphis."
Plans are to lease blue building and property from the City of Caraway on the east side of the city ballpark. There will be 200x300 feet of fenced equipment area.
"The levee district will need a long term lease on the property, and I am in the process of getting it drawn up for review," Riley said. "This sounds like a good investment for all concerned."
The council passed a motion to lease building and property to the St. Francis Levee District, with a vote of 5-0. Councilman Bo James abstained from voting.
Mayor Riley promoted the use of a one-cent city sales tax in order to generate revenue to help alleviate the current city financial dilemma.
"This tax could possibly bring in as much as $60,000 annually," Riley said. "It would be collected for us by the DFA (Department of Finance) and we would be sent a check. This revenue would be distributed between roads, water and maintenance. I would like to see us having a subdivision and something to offer the people."
"Not all of the problems the city has are water problems," Water Superintendent Terry Couch said.
"I agree, but we have new expenditures coming up all the time, along with existing ones," Riley said. "We are in a bind right now. An election to have a vote on the tax would cost between $6,500 and $7,000.
"We will all have to be committed to the project to get it done. We might do a house-to-house poll to see if the tax would pass before we go forward. I have had nothing but positive results with everyone I have talked to."
"Other towns in the area are in the same situation we are in," Browning said."
"We might consider having a couple of town meetings on the idea," Councilman Mitchell Tipton said.
"We could have an exit poll after the meetings," Bell said.
"First we need to show the citizens how the tax will be helpful to them," Riley said. "If it should pass in November it would be next May before we would get a check from it."
"We should go door to door and talk to the people about this," Zamora said.
"I'm not against the tax idea, but I want the people of the city to understand that we are not broke, we are just struggling," James said. "We have not mismanaged anything, the money is just not there. We are looking into the future for our city."
"I don't want city employees to lose their jobs," Riley said.
"Are the city officials giving themselves a raise at the first of the year?" Former Mayor Joe South said. "Isn't there a $1,200 increase?"
"Joe (South) you have some wrong information," James said. "Elected officers are not city employees. City employees got the $1,200 raise."
"City council members will get a $50 increase," Riley said.
"As council members we are here to serve the city of Caraway," Zamora said. "I request a reduction in pay, from the $50 increase. We are to lead by example."
All council members and the Mayor agreed to take a reduction in salary of $50, going back to the 2010 amount of $100 a month.
At the close of the meeting Mayor Riley emphasized how much volunteer work is done by councilmen that many people do not know about.
"I know personally that Bo (James) not only serves as fire chief and EMT volunteer but works to patch roads, mow lawns and helps the Water Department through some nights to repair water lines," Riley said. "Johnny (Boatman) is a fireman, mows yards, works at cleaning the cemetery and does road repairs. Mitchell (Tipton) does road repair too. Marvin (Browning) is a fire department volunteer. All our councilmen deserve much more than they get, yet they are not in it for the money, and never have been."
In other business:
*Mayor Riley said there was a new business inquiry from Bob Blankenship of Monette for a car wash site. "They need a 200x200 foot spot in the arena area, next to Therma Gas. This would still leave us parking space," Riley said.
"There is no water and sewer there now," Couch said.
The council gave Couch a verbal agreement to get estimates on needed facilities for the site.
*A request for removal of trash containers from streets after pick up was addressed, along with need for a mobile home ordinance. Mayor Riley agreed to look into both situations.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, at city hall.