A Macon City Council committee Monday endorsed spending an extra $110,000 on firefighters pay, but the unanimous votes came with pointed recognition of inaccuracies in city financial documents and a repetition of complaints about the cost of consolidation with Bibb County.
The councils Appropriations Committee voted 5-0 for two ordinances, one to set aside $55,000 for additional overtime in the fire suppression division for the remaining six months of the fiscal year, and one to allocate $55,000 for a fire inspectors pay that was omitted from this years budget. The money is to come from the citys unallocated reserve fund. Both items are expected to be on the full council agenda Jan. 15.
Fire Chief Marvin Riggins told committee members that overtime is higher than expected because of several vacancies and several firefighters called to active military service. A class of recruits is ready to join the force, so overtime costs should drop soon, he said.
Councilman Henry Ficklin said the requests came without an accounting of the unallocated reserves status, which the council always requests. Amanda Deaton, assistant chief administrative officer for budget and planning, said she hadnt included it because the amount in reserve changes so often.
Deaton handed out a document showing recent transactions and the balance in the unallocated reserve fund, one line of which drew reaction from Councilwoman Elaine Lucas.
Consolidation cost sure is high, Lucas said, referring to the $230,000 the council approved Dec. 18 to cover roughly half the estimated cost of consultants hired to help merge Macon and Bibb County governments. She and Ficklin were two of the four council members who voted against that appropriation, which also came from unallocated reserves.
There was no warning that we would have to pay these costs when we voted on this, Ficklin added, speaking of the July 31 referendum in which voters approved consolidation. Legislators didnt include a specific funding mechanism in the consolidation charter, so paying for consolidation is a drag on city business, he said.
Section 37 of the consolidation bill says local elected officials shall cooperate with and assist the transition task force and that the task force shall be authorized to receive and expend appropriations from local governments.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.