| By Jason C. Mattox
The Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen cut nearly $500,000 from the city’s proposed 2005 budget during a three hour work session Thursday.
The city still needs to cut $2 million to balance the $20 million budget.
Following lengthy discussions, a large change to the budget came from the Batesville Fire Department.
As has been the case in years past, a sticking point for the BFD budget has been new sleeping quarters and office space for full-time firefighters.
According to accountant Bill Crawford, whose figures the city is using during the budget process, the original request for the new construction was $400,000. The BFD was also asking for $300,000 to purchase a new pumper truck.
Crawford pointed out that Fire Chief Tim Taylor intended to use $282,000 in on-hand funds to help pay for the sleeping quarters.
Two-hundred sixty thousand of the money is fire rebate money the city has secured in certificates of deposit.
"We have cut these sleeping quarters in the past, and I think we might have to do it again," Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton said.
Yelton suggested cutting out the sleeping quarters and using the on-hand funds to help pay for the purchase of the new pumper truck.
As for the sleeping areas, Yelton questioned why station one, behind City Hall on College Street, could not be converted.
"It seems like it would cost us a lot less than $400,000 to make that into a sleeping and meeting place," he said. "All they seem to use it for is a lounge to watch TV in after a fire.
"If we use the $282,000 in funds, it would really help us get our budget close," Yelton added.
Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger suggested allowing the chief to use the $282,000 to build the facility he wants.
"I would think he could build a really nice place for $282,000," he said. "I don’t think there is a need for us to spend the extra money."
Dugger suggested the city go with Taylor’s original plan of financing the purchase price of the pumper truck.
After further discussion, city leaders decided to allow the BFD budget $250,000 for the construction of the sleeping quarters and financing the pumper trucks.
"That way it will leave him a cushion of money and he would be able to go ahead and get started," Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said. "I just feel like we have put it off long enough and at least he (Chief Taylor) will be able to do something."
Crawford explained the fire rebate money had not been figured into the budget figures.
"You cut the $400,000 in the original figures by $150,000," he said. "Then we have the $250,000 that wasn’t figured into the budget, so you actually cut $400,000 off your budget right there."
A small cut of $10,000 was made to the budget of the Batesville Main Street Program, the arm of the Panola Partnership that promotes downtown revitalization. That means the city’s overall contribution to the partnership and Main Street will be $60,000. That figure also includes $20,000 for SpringFest.
A $40,000 cut came from the budget of the street department when the city lowered the number of new dump trucks from two to one.
"If it is going to reduce our budget by $40,000 to go to one dump truck rather than two, I think they will have to make do with one for the time being," Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow said. "If we find money later, we might can purchase another one."
Other accounts and department budgets went virtually unchanged. When the city board meets again next Tuesday at 10 a.m. for further discussion on the budget, Crawford said he might offer suggestions to help the city resolve the financial pinch.
"I think we made good progress here," he said. "We still have a long way to go, but I think we can get that worked out next week."