In between relatively staid reviews of the mayor’s proposed budget, Macon City Council members got a big surprise: a visit from Daisy, a 7-foot python from the Museum of Arts and Sciences.
The council’s conference room was momentarily thrown into chaos when Daisy made her appearance draped around the shoulders of her handler, Sharron Wilhelm. In fact, Councilman Alveno Ross — dressed in a yellow shirt that matched the python’s skin — rushed out of the room.
Councilman Mike Cranford joked, “Instead of ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ Miss Daisy drove everyone out of the room.”
Almost everyone. Noting the quiet shock on the faces of his colleagues, Councilman Tom Ellington got up to pet Daisy.
Shortly after, the council’s Appropriations Committee returned to the business at hand, making sure the agencies the city helps fund are taking the same effort with their budgets that Macon Mayor Robert Reichert took to trim the city’s budget, which he proposed to the council Tuesday night. Reichert’s proposed budget requires no tax increase but would give all city employees a pay scale, which is paid for, in part, by requiring workers to pay more for their health-care insurance.
Cranford briefed every agency with the same message: Look long and hard at consolidating services such as finance and human resources with the city and try to get in step with personnel changes the city has made. He and other committee members asked agencies specifically to make their employees share the costs of health care.
Ellington said the city should try to duplicate the health-care program the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, which presented its budget to the committee, uses to reduce its costs.
He pointed out the Regional Commission spends about $5,000 a year per employee while the city spends about $9,000 per person a year. That agency, which coordinates efforts between multiple counties, would receive $76,855 in the proposed budget.
The committee also met with officials in charge of local Geographic Information Systems, which would receive $53,360 in the proposed budget; Bibb County Mapping, $128,269; and the Tubman African American Museum, $25,000.
The Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections officials said the city’s share — a 50-50 split with the county — of the election board’s budget needs would be $410,044 in the proposed budget for fiscal 2011, a jump from $322,148 in fiscal 2010 because of this year’s statewide elections and the July vote on a special purpose local option sales tax.
Speaking of, Cranford half-jokingly asked Elections Director Elaine Carr if the city could pay a prorated cost to the elections board amount “since the county called for the vote on the SPLOST” without the city’s sanction. Carr deferred the answer to the Bibb County Commission.
The Museum of Arts and Sciences would receive $48,615 in the proposed budget.
The budget review process continues at 3 p.m. today.
To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.