Cannelton Council split on proposed budget

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By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

Two members object to closed-door meetings

CANNELTON - Cannelton's mayor had to cast a vote to break a deadlock Monday in approval of the city's projected 2009 budget after two council members voted against it.

Councilwoman Kim Nugent offered a motion to adopt the budget during a meeting scheduled for that purpose Monday, following its second reading by Clerk-Treasurer Arvina Bozarth. When council members Lynn Fulkerson and John Young III didn't respond to Mayor Smokey Graves' call for a second to the motion, he turned to Councilman Snooks Scarboro, who offered one after the mayor repeated his request.

Nugent and Scarboro voted to adopt the budget, and Fulkerson and Young voted against it. Councilman Adam Goffinet was absent due to illness.

As mayor, Graves normally doesn't vote except to break ties. He added his "aye" to the others'.

Fulkerson and Young said after the meeting they registered nay votes because they didn't have enough information about this year's spending to plan next year's.

City Clerk-Treasurer Arvina Bozarth "didn't have figures for (this) year, so we couldn't know where we were at," Fulkerson explained.

Young agreed, saying Bozarth failed to provide the amounts spent so far this year for each city department, which would have provided a basis on which to plan future spending.

Bozarth said she had provided information on city spending through July, but "I had some problems early on (in the year) with reconciliation of the ledger against monthly bank statements." She was still working to reconcile spending for August and this month, she said, and "wanted to go ahead and get (the budget) in place so I could do this catch-up work." She said she felt comfortable in planning the 2009 budget with the information that was available.

"We raised the gas budgets a little and salaries," she said. "There weren't any significant increases in anything else. Most departments were willing to work within the budgets they had (this year)."

Fulkerson also said she objected because meetings in which the budget was to be discussed weren't advertised properly.

Legal notices appeared in The News Aug. 7 and 14 advertising the proposed budget and the meetings, but Fulkerson explained Tuesday budget-discussion meetings were also conducted Aug. 20 and Sept. 6 for which notices were neither provided to The News nor posted on the door of City Hall.

"If the public wanted to attend," she said, "they couldn't because they didn't know about them."

Young pointed out at the Sept. 6 meeting the legal requirement to notify the public, Fulkerson said, and didn't want to go forward. "They looked it up and found it should have been posted, but decided to go ahead since we were all there," she added.

Based on a statement Bozarth made at a Sept. 18 county-council meeting, The News reported Monday Cannelton city employees will receive a 3-percent raise next year. The council had actually agreed to raise their pay by 2 percent, except for floodwall- and cemetery-management positions, for which no increase was authorized. Elected officials will also see no pay hike.

Bozarth said after Monday's meeting she may have inadvertently said 3 percent instead of 2.

The council tabled approval of a proposed salary ordinance for appointed officers and employees after Young noted a discrepancy between versions provided previously and Monday. Bozarth said Tuesday increases weren't included in police officers' salaries when the ordinance was written. "I do have a new one and will bring it to the next meeting," she said.