The Selma City Council approved most of a budget Thursday night, but there was little celebration.
The council met in a special meeting Thursday to review a revised budget for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1. The council asked Mayor James Perkins Jr. at their regular meeting Tuesday to trim $200,000 off the $8.2 million salaries budget to give the city a “cushion” to cover unexpected expenses. Perkins told the council Thursday he revised the budget to give a $150,000 cushion, which he called “a darn good compromise.”
But the sticking point in the budget Thursday was 18 salary-related line items brought to the attention of the council by Councilman Clay Carmichael. Some of the line items related to different salaries for administrative assistants, which Carmichael called “an equity issue,” and several line items related to salary increases for department heads. He moved to approve the budget minus these 18 line items, which the council could review at its next work session.
Perkins was clearly agitated.
“What you’re doing is making decisions on bad information,” Perkins told the council. “You have every right to vote it up or down. Now I ask you to go ahead and figure this out. Let me know. The budget I submitted is not my budget. It’s what the department heads said they needed to stand this city up. You chose to divide it up and gut it. I stand on what I presented tonight.”
Councilman Michael Johnson said that the council is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the city, and it should be left to the mayor to decide employee performance and pay. Councilwoman Lesia James agreed.
Johnson called the vote to hold back the 18 salary-related items “a sad day in Selma.”
“It’s sad not to allow other families to do well,” Johnson said. “I don’t get it.”
Carmichael responded his motion to approve the budget except for the 18 line items did not affect the other 400+ items. He said they are still increasing salaries in public works, in the police department, in the fire department. “We’re not taking that away. Don’t make something more out of it than what it is.”
A motion to approve the budget as presented by Perkins with all line items intact failed on a 3-6 vote. Carmichael’s motion to approve the budget except for the items related to administrative assistants and some department heads passed on a 5-4 vote. Voting in favor of the motion were Council President Warren “Billy” Young, Carmichael, Troy Harvill, Jannie Thomas and Christie Thomas. Lesia James, Johnson, Sam Randolph and Atkin Jemison voted against the budget without all the items included.