Forest Park passes temporary budget

By Ed Brock

The city of Forest Park has a budget ? for now.

During Monday night's regular meeting city council members voted unanimously in favor of a continuing budget resolution. The resolution is intended to approve funding for city operations until a permanent operating budget is approved.

Three members of the council also voted once again to replace city attorney Jack Hancock with the Jonesboro firm Glaze, Harris, Arnold & Mack.

Under the resolution the city is authorized to pay "all invoices, bills, salaries and related expenses and all other incurred expenses or request for payment to the extent that the same do not require or necessitate any line-item transfers exceeding $5,000." The resolution will expire when a 2003-2004 budget is adopted.

The city failed to approve the new budget by July 1 which meant it had to operate on a month to month basis based on last year's budget. Certain items, such as payments for certain insurance policies, that have increased since last year required line-item expense increases.

Mayor Chuck Hall said he is concerned that, under the new resolution, the city will not be able to pay a $26,000 one-time payment due for the city's elected officials' insurance. But Hall had good news for the city's employees.

"The hospitalization insurance will be paid," Hall said.

Council member Corine Deyton said she thinks the resolution will allow the city to cover all the city's expenses except for certain employee raises.

"They won't get the raise right now but it will be retroactive," Deyton said.

The council was supposed to address the continuing budget resolution in a special called meeting last Friday but that meeting was cut short after Council member Debbie Youmans moved to add something to the agenda. When Hall told Youmans that the city charter prohibited her from doing that the council voted to adjourn the meeting.

Deyton, Youmans and Donald Judson voted to replace Hancock while Council members Henry Estes and Wes Lord voted against the motion. The three council members have voted more than once to remove Hancock and each time Hall has vetoed their action.

On Tuesday Hall said he had not yet vetoed the most recent vote.

"I'm giving it consideration," he said.

Deyton said she thinks there is a conflict between Hancock representing the county government and the city at the same time, and Judson said he just thinks it's time for a change.

Also, the council voted to repeal a resolution that limited members of the general public from addressing items not listed on the agenda during the public comment period of a meeting.