London council greenlights $1 million capital budget

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(Posted March 22, 2018)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

London city council approved more than $1 million in appropriations for capital expenses in 2018.

The unanimous vote came at council’s March 15 meeting. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Police Department–$115,000 for two new vehicles and communication equipment;
  • Fire Department–$180,000 for technology upgrades, turnout gear, and potential needs for new equipment and building renovations;
  • Recreation Department–$50,000 for concrete pads under the bleachers at Merrimac Park, fencing for a potential dog park, and water lines and electricity at Cowling Park; and
  • Street Department–$705,000 for cape sealing, full-depth repairs, and crack sealing of streets, as well as a pickup truck and small dump truck.

The total comes to $1,050,000.

The capital fund already had some money in it, said council member Rex Castle. The fire department covers its capital expenses from its own separate fund. The rest, approximately $600,000, will come from the general fund and includes a cushion in case an emergency expense arises.

Before voting “yes,” newly appointed council member Anthony Smith had some questions. He said he needed to know more about the city’s overall budget before making a decision on appropriating $1 million for capital expenses.

Council member Rex Castle explained that the general fund balance at the end of 2017 was $2,382,000. The 2018 budget has expenses outpacing revenues by about $500,000. The general fund balance is large enough to cover that deficit, cover the capital budget transfer, and still leave a surplus, Castle said.

“As long as our revenue continues to grow at the rate our revenues have grown, life’s not going to be too bad,” Castle added. “But if our revenues ever take a dip, life could get a little more difficult. We have to really, really watch what we’re spending our money on.

“Historically, we as council felt comfortable passing a $500,000 deficit budget because the administration has given us a track record the past two years of underspending their budget by almost 10 percent.”

In other action, council approved pay rate changes for summer pool employees. Some were increased to meet minimum wage. Others were increased to compete with wages offered by other area pools.

One of the larger increases is for lifeguards, going up $1 per hour across the board. Entry level guards were making $8.45 per hour; this year, they will make $9.45 per hour.

“Lifeguards have to pay $225 to $250 to get certification. Then you look at the fact that you’re going to make 15 cents above minimum wage. So, that is why I increased the lifeguard (pay) across the board,” said Tammy Braskett, parks and recreation director.

She asked former guards if they would be enticed to renew their certification and work for London if they knew they would make more money. Enough said “yes” that she has nine or 10 guards who plan to return this year, as well as several new individuals who are interested.

Braskett also wants to hire a maintenance supervisor with expertise specific to pools. To attract someone with the right qualifications, council approved a pay rate of $13 to $18 per hour based on experience, up from $8.40 per hour.

“There’s not a lot of people that do this work. My priority is to find somebody that is capable and responsible that can come in and get our pool ready every morning and move onto something else,” Braskett said.

The raises are accounted for in the 2018 parks and recreation budget, Castle noted.

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