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Council approves first round of budget talks

By Kathy Jefcoats

FOREST PARK — With no fanfare, city council members approved the proposed budget for two departments in Forest Park Monday night.

After the meeting, city management analyst Angela Redding posted a draft of the 2013-2014 proposal on the city's website. Residents can comment in writing until midnight June 2. Public comments will be heard at a June 3 hearing at City Hall when the proposed $22 million budget will be voted on.

Council members met first with Elaine Corley, director of Recreation and Leisure Services. Corley is in her 50th year with the city — a fact not lost on Mayor David Lockhart.

"My general thoughts are that she knows what she's doing and what she needs," he said. "Otherwise, I trust Ms. Corley."

Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord agreed.

"As in past years, she knew well what she needed," she said.

Corley heads a department with 11 full-time employees and 35 part-time or full-to-part-time seasonal or temporary employees with a work week range of eight to 40 hours with a duration of eight to 52 weeks.

The 2012-2013 operating budget for Corley's department is $1.24 million, or $58,788 more than the proposed 2013-2014 budget of $1.18 million. Salaries and benefits will remain the same at $803,924.

Under purchased or contracted services, the amount needed for computer maintenance will drop by $19,600. Utilities also saw a drop because of cost reductions in 2011 and 2012, said Corley. The city will pay $10,100 less for gas, water and sewer services.

Capital outlay projects include $10,500 to cover the costs of tables and chairs for the Senior Center and for a pool heater.

A reduction of $12,500 for special events at Starr Park means fewer events can be held there in the coming year, said Corley.

Corley said she hoped the revenues will carry the department.

"If we need extras, we'll come back," she said. "If I do come back, it means the participation has increased and the revenue is there to offset the increase."

Christine Terrell, director of support services, presented her budget after Corley. Her staff includes five full-time and two part-time positions. Terrell's department salaries will drop from $199,363 to $188,000, a 5.7 percent decrease. City Manager John Parker said all department heads were encouraged to reduce costs by 3 percent.

"Some couldn't do it at all, others made more than a 3 percent cut," he said.

The cost of providing life and health insurance to Terrell's employees also dropped by $7,020 over the current year. She attributed that to knowing what coverage her employees require.

Overall, Terrell's department will operate at $25,883 less than it did during 2012-2013.

City council will meet again tonight at 6 to discuss the budgets for the police department and Planning, Building and Zoning Department.

Council members will meet Thursday at 6 p.m. with personnel with fire and emergency medical services, and the Public Works Administration to discuss their respective budgets.

The meetings are open to the public.