Wednesday, January 28, 2009

BF mayor gives up his salary to help police department as village budget tightens up

Clara Garcia News-Bulletin Staff Writer;

Bosque Farms The mayor of Bosque Farms is reaching into his own pocket to help with unexpected expenditures incurred in the police department's budget.

During a mid-year budget review workshop last week, Mayor Wayne Ake instructed the village's clerk-administrator Gayle Jones to take his salary for the remainder of the fiscal year and designate it to the police department. Ake made the decision to forego his remaining salary, which would be less than $2,500, after the police chief explained to the council why at least one line item in his budget will most likely be in the red at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Chief Joe Stidham explained that there have been several unexpected expenditures regarding the department's maintenance and repair of police vehicles. He said that he has less than $938 left in that particular line item. Stidham said the transmission in one of the police units "blew" and that it would be cost-prohibitive to repair. Instead, Stidham purchased a used state police vehicle for $4,000 to replace the inoperable car. He said he could sell that particular vehicle at auction for about $2,000.

"I want you to designate it (his salary) to any line item the chief needs," Ake told Jones at the workshop. "It could even pay for the rest of that car."

Jones said after the meeting that Ake does have the option to give up his salary and designate it to the village. The mayor of Bosque Farms earns a total of $5,000 per year.

While the police department is facing the hardest budget crisis, both Ake and Jones said that, while the village's entire budget is very tight, it is still on track to be balanced at the end of the fiscal year.

"We're not here to hold a funeral it's not that bad, it's not bad at all," Ake told the council of the budget. "We're actually in good shape."

"We're not here to spread doom and gloom," Jones added. "Actually, when I got to really looking at this, we're not in bad shape at all."

Jones told the council that when they passed the budget last year, it was done very conservatively. She complimented all the department heads for staying within the confines of their respective budgets.

"Our gross receipts taxes are down, as is everybody's in the state," she said. "This isn't anything unique to Bosque Farms."

Jones said Bosque Farms has received about 58 percent of its projected gross receipts tax for the fiscal year. The village's annual municipal gross receipt tax is currently down about 5 percent, and its state share of gross receipts is down 2 percent from the previous year.

The clerk administrator said those figures show that, overall, the village's gross receipts revenue isn't as far down as some thought it would be and that she suspects that, when gas prices were high, people were spending less on other things. She says after listening to some of the economists, they're predicting gross receipts taxes will be increasing because of the decreased gas prices.

"I'm optimistic that our gross receipts will be up and our distribution should be up in February," Jones said. "There is also another light at the end of the tunnel. We increased gross receipts tax by 1/4 percent that went into effect on January 1. We won't realize anything off of that until March."

She added that she believes that the village's gross receipt taxes will turn around in the next couple of months, enough to make up the shortfall.

Jones also reminded the council that property taxes were increased this past year. The village did receive an $18,845 check on Dec. 29 for the November property tax collection. Another check was mailed to village this week for $52,044.

The next big portion of Bosque Farm's property tax revenue isn't expected until after the May collection, which she expects to be a larger portion. Last year, the Village of Bosque Farms acquired a total of $42,000 in property taxes.

"Our interest income is down 27 percent, and that's what we expected," Jones added. "The banks aren't paying interest, and we knew that going in. With the economy the way it is, we're just not getting the interest on our accounts at all."

Because the budget is tight, the village has already implemented several things to help sustain the ending cash balances, including a freeze on all out-of-state and overnight travel. Jones has already spoken with the department heads about the subject, and everyone has already made their adjustments.

She also informed the council that they have tightened up the village's purchasing system in that all purchase order requisitions must go directly to her for approval rather than to the village treasurer.

"I had a department head meeting about a month ago and told them that we're not going to do any unnecessary spending," she said. "We just need to tighten our belts, but I think we can get through this."

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