After Central’s city government underwent a major turnover in last year’s elections, the new class of leadership has failed to pass its first budget due to disagreements over funding basic services.
Last week, the city council rejected the mayor’s proposed budget in a 6-1 vote ahead of the July 1 deadline, after which Central will have to operate on 50% of last year’s budget until the mayor and council can agree on a new budget.
Two issues are at the heart of the disagreement: 1) funding over drainage and 2) a proposed budget increase for the police department.
Some council members had requested an additional $500,000 in funding for drainage services in Central, which the mayor did not include in his budget. Council members Aaron McKinney and Dave Freneaux say drainage issues remain a top concern for their constituents, and they campaigned on promises to address it.
“Drainage is not a project, it’s an obligation—something we need to put in the budget and handle every year,” Freneaux says. “My campaign slogan was drainage first. I want a funded solution to drainage issues.”
Mayor David Barrow says the city has spent hundreds of thousands on drainage in previous years and is seeing results. Central also contracts services out to a private contractor, IBTS, that performs drainage maintenance.
Central, which has an $8 million budget, boasts more than $1 million in surplus funds each year. If the city put an additional $500,000 toward drainage, Freneaux says it would still have a $600,000 surplus. The mayor, however, says that is low for Central.
“I’m a little concerned having a surplus that low at the beginning of the year,” Barrow says. “Things come up that you need to spend money on.”
Other council members who rejected the mayor’s budget did so out of opposition to an increase in the police budget. Central Police Capt. Darren Sibley says the increase is mainly for tech support because the department currently has no IT services.
“The majority of the council has some differences with the police department,” says Barrow. “We’ve seen an increase in the police budget every year over the past several years. The increase this year was actually one of the smallest. Some do not want any increase.”
Just because it’s been done in previous years doesn’t mean it should continue, says Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Wade Evans, who has concerns about the continued growth of the police department when Central is adequately served by the sheriff’s office.
“The sheriff substations provide great service already,” Evans says. “If it’s more efficient to go forward with the sheriff’s department as the primary law enforcement, we should.”
Still, even with these disagreements, the council and mayor remain confident they will come to a comprisement and fully fund Central’s budget soon enough.
“We’re going to figure it out,” Evans says. “It takes everyone coming to the table.”