Monday evening, Macon officials opened the City Council chambers doors to the public to allow residents to voice their concerns and gather information about the fiscal 2011 budget.
But the public never showed up.
The council’s Appropriations Committee, surrounded solely by city employees and the media, sat in silence for about 10 minutes before Councilman Mike Cranford ended the public hearing.
Despite the inauspicious end to the hearing, the committee spent two hours reviewing the Public Works Department budget, questioning everything from garbage can allocation to costs at the landfill when it’s scheduled to close.
Monday’s review was the last by the committee before the budget finalization process, which begins at 3 p.m. today.
Monday, the committee moved forward with Cranford’s proposal to put $500,000 of unused money from the fiscal 2010 budget into the working capital reserve account — better known as the Filomena Fund, named for the late Councilwoman Filomena Mullis, who championed the fund — which the city uses to get through the summer when tax revenues are low.
Finance Director Tom Barber said the city won’t know for up to three months exactly how much is left over from this year’s budget. As such, the measure passed Monday by the committee only works if there is enough money left over.
The resolution must still pass the full council.
Cranford also noted that he wants to reallocate money in the fiscal 2011 budget that had been set aside as a local match for the multimillion dollar HOPE VI grant that the Macon Housing Authority recently learned it won’t get. The city had budgeted about $667,000 for that match, and Cranford said he wants to put $500,000 of it into the Filomena Fund.
In a separate move, the committee also approved increasing the administrative fee for UDC Realty, the wholly owned subsidiary of NewTown Macon that oversees the Terminal Station construction project.
The plan is to use leftover money from the construction contingency fund, if any is left at the end of the process. Mayor Robert Reichert said the measure was justified because construction delays beyond the control of the construction company required extending the project another 18 months, which increased the work done by UDC Realty.
Councilwoman Elaine Lucas said she thinks the measure is like writing “a blank check” to UDC Realty. Lucas voted against the resolution, though it still passed 4-1.
Separately, Economic and Community Development Director Wanzina Jackson addressed concerns about her department not funding youth vouchers for summer programs. The committee learned last week that the money for the vouchers wasn’t given to the Macon-Bibb County Parks and Recreation Department as it had been in the past. The vouchers help underprivileged children attend summer programs.
Several other council members expressed their frustration and dismay. They asked Jackson to begin looking for money that could be used to continue the vouchers. Councilman Larry Schlesinger, chairman of the community resources committee, said his committee would be willing to discuss the issue again before the June 22 special meeting to approve the fiscal 2011 budget.
To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.