WARNER ROBINS -- City Council will hold its first public discussion of the fiscal 2013 budget at its precouncil meeting June 14, Mayor Chuck Shaheen said Thursday during a news conference.
Council members received the first draft of the budget May 21. They are set to vote on a final budget June 18.
“We probably should have talked about it last week,” Shaheen said. “We had so much going on though.”
Shaheen said this week’s precouncil meeting, held Monday instead of its usual time on the Thursday prior to regular council meetings, was packed with other business.
Shaheen talked about the budget during the news conference he said could become a regular way to communicate with the media. He responded to questions from reporters on a wide range of topics.
The mayor was asked about a proposed $90,000 worth of additions to the latest draft of the budget: $30,000 for a contracted lobbyist, $43,060 for a media specialist and a $17,000 increase in salary and benefits for Redevelopment Agency director Gary Lee.
Asked to explain the decision to add positions and increase Lee’s salary while making cuts in almost every other department, Shaheen drew attention to the media specialist position.
“This is an area we feel as though you can’t put a price tag on,” he said.
Some have suggested that the mayor’s staff take on media specialist duties, but Shaheen said that his staff “would love to” but they already have too many duties.
Asked to explain the new economic development duties that called for Lee’s proposed raise, Shaheen said Lee would be the city’s primary contact person for the Houston County Development Authority and businesses.
The mayor said the proposed lobbyist would help take city issues to state legislators and locate unused state funds.
Shaheen said he called Thursday’s news conference to respond to all of the media questions he’s received. If the media finds it helpful, he said, he would like to make the huddle-type conference on a monthly or weekly basis.