WARNER ROBINS — Officials discussed allotting money for employees at the animal shelter and police department, among other things, during a called City Council meeting Thursday night.
The talks were held ahead of Monday’s regular meeting, during which they may approve a nearly $35 million budget for the 2011 fiscal year.
Mayor Chuck Shaheen mentioned unfreezing nine jobs, something accomplished by going through the budget with Chief Financial Officer Bill Harte to see where money could best be utilized.
The budget, with $34,685,022 expected for the city’s general fund, is down slightly from the fiscal year 2010 budget of $34.9 million, but up just more than $1 million from what was actually used. The budget includes about $6.5 million to cover salaries, benefits and operations costs for the mayor, council and general administration in the city.
Three of the positions unfrozen would be utilized in the city’s public works department.
Warner Robins police Maj. John Wagner came to the group to seek additional funds to hire front desk staff. The position, of salary grade 6, would cost the city about $21,000.
“It’s a critical position,” Wagner said, “because it’s pulling one person off the road to man the front desk.”
One person off the road is a lot to the department, Wagner said. Currently, they handle about 675 calls daily, with about seven to eight officers on patrol per shift. Some of those calls require more than one officer to respond, further stretching the load, he said.
Animal Control officials came asking for money, too. Theirs was to cover a part-time position already approved by the council. Capt. Brenda Parks-Mathern said the $12,000 in the budget to fund part-time positions only funds one person. The shelter currently has two part-timers working.
“My thing is, if you approve the position, how do you not approve the funding?” said Parks-Mathern, who is in charge of the city’s animal control facility. “I asked was her position frozen, and I was told to use what I had. I don’t know how to tell two employees the city can no longer afford to pay you.”
Harte told Parks-Mathern that sometimes the position is approved by the body, but the funding is not.
“I need to know what can be done to get this part-time position funded?” Parks-Mathern asked.
“Well, this council would have to approve funding,” Harte said.
“That’s why I’m here,” Parks-Mathern said. “I’m asking, please.”
City officials will hold one more public hearing on the budget at its meeting Monday night before they are expected to approve it.
For a copy of the budget, visit www.warnerrobinsga.gov/page.php?id=340&cid=325
To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.