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The big skirmish tonight in Rice won’t be on the gridiron, it’ll be at 7 p.m. in the city hall at 205 E. Calhoun where it’s a battle between the old guard and the new guard for the city budget.
On one side is long-time Mayor Larry Bailey, whose list of accomplishments includes the grant for the city’s sidewalk, putting together the resources for the city park, and several other grants.
On the other side are the new faces on the council, including Mayor Pro Tem Garry Teague, who are taking a critical look at the city’s spending.
“Right now, it’s challenging,” Bailey said Wednesday. “We can’t run it like a business. We’re not about money. We’re about giving people the best service with what we have.”
Bailey is arguing against cuts to the park budget, the city secretary’s budget and the police budget.
“They’re trying to tear down the city and everything I’ve tried to build up,” he said.
Teague disagrees with the mayor. He says the new group of three council members aren’t trying to tear anything down, they’re trying to build up the city in some crucial areas, specifically streets.
“The budget’s going to be about the same, but we’d like to see some of the money spent in different places,” Teague said Thursday. “Everybody says ‘you’re cutting the budget,’ but we’re cutting in different departments. We’d like to put more money into roads. We’ve spent a lot in the park in the last couple of years, which is fine, but we’re trying to rearrange that a little bit.”
The cuts to the police department were done in consultation with Police Chief Larry Cheek, Teague said.
“The chief of police has worked closely with us and that’s been a big help,” Teague said. “The chief cut his budget. If the department head is telling you he doesn’t need it, that’s a good thing.”
Having the new people on the council is a mixed blessing for Rice. It has made the budget process longer and more complex. What was accepted in past years needed more explanations and discussions this year for the new council members. Friday’s meeting will constitute the fourth budget workshop for this council this year. In many years past, the council has met only once or twice before voting to approve it. Final approval of the budget will need to take place before Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
The proposed budget that’s been worked out so far is balanced, with no tax rate increase, but it also won’t add to the city’s fund balance. The fund balance is about $90,000, or about 78 days worth of operating expenses, according to Bailey. Experts recommend that a city, county or school district keep 90 days worth of operating expenses on hand.
“We’ve just got a really involved council right now, we’re not just saying ‘let’s got home, supper’s on the stove,’” Teague said.
Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com