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Florence budget rejected at hearing

Staff writer

Monday evening’s Florence city budget hearing was a three-hour event that sent the council back to the drawing board.

Councilman Matthew Williams was absent, but mayor Bob Gayle and the three other members were under fire from the start.

“Basically, the budget hearing, for all of you sitting here, is your opportunity to ask us questions,” councilman Trayce Warner said. “We’ve already been over this budget, we already know what’s in it, or should. And we’re prepared to sign off on it for next year.”

Former councilman Randy Mills was the first to question the council, inquiring about Florence’s allocation of funds.

“How much is the General Fund,” Mills said. “That’s what I thought, they don’t know, no one knows.”

After not receiving an answer from the board, Mills asked about the number of mills on the city’s tax levy.

“Ken [Hoffman], can you tell me how much our mill levy is,” he asked.

Councilman Reilly Reid responded that the levy is around 77 mills.

As the meeting progressed, the topic turned to the city’s garbage situation.

Florence needs a new garbage truck, but the $57,000 reserve fund for waste is barely enough to make a payment, Gayle said.

“This fund has been kicked around, kicked around, kicked around in many respects,” he said. “And now it’s coming back.”

Putting off the decision for a new truck can only get the city so far, business owner Trevor Dawson said.

“If the trash truck breaks down tomorrow, and it won’t go anymore,” Dawson said. “All these people in this town are paying for trash removal, how are you going to get the trash?”

Gayle mentioned paying to use a truck from Marion or Peabody, or paying Waste Management to come directly.

Paying elsewhere to remove garbage will cost Florence, Dawson said.

“How do you pay them if you don’t have the money,” he said. “If Waste Management charges you $5,000 a week and you’re only charging citizens $2,000 a week, so you’re $3,000 upside down.”

There were also several instances where the council discussed using emergency funds to pay for line items.

“Next month or six months from now, you have no idea what’s going to come up unexpectedly,” Judy Mills said.

The council discussed emergency and reserve funds as options 2018 also, because 63.2 percent of the current general budget has already been spent.

As of July 31, the city had spent $196,000 of the $310,000 in the 2018 general fund, Warner said.

The budget approval was postponed for a later date. The council met Tuesday for a budget workshop, though no budget could be passed.

Several smaller items were approved: fire hydrant repairs, concrete pouring of a sidewalk, and acceptance of an outside offer to buy scrap steel at $70 per ton.

Resident Bev Baldwin stressed the need for everyone to put aside differences and work together.

“Everybody’s got what they’ve done wrong, everybody’s done something wrong,” she said. “But let’s just start fresh.”

Last modified Aug. 9, 2018

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