Crab Orchard has slim wallet but will get by OK

June 04, 2004|EMILY BURTON

CRAB ORCHARD - The town's budget may be tight in the upcoming fiscal year, but Mayor Mike Ramey isn't seeing red. And that's something, he says.

"At least we're in the black," and that's more than some cities can say, he added.

City Commission members met Thursday for the final approval of the upcoming budget, to take affect July 1. Crab Orchard's wallet might seem thin in comparison to neighboring cities, but after minor budget cuts it is enough to get by on, said Ramey.

Next fiscal year the city has budgeted total revenues of $187,763, with the water/sewer departments expected to draw $242,850.

"We had to downscale on a lot of stuff, but there's no major changes," he explained. Due to a large decline in revenue, cuts were made to such line items as office supplies and other items that would not affect the city's services to its citizens.


Cuts also were made to the fire department's equipment fund to support a small, well-deserved raise for the fire chief, said Ramey. The budget cut will be negated by a $98,000 Federal Emergency Management Association grant, awarded to the city last year for fire equipment.

Perhaps the hardest hit was the police department, said Ramey. Last year's loss of base court funds, state funds used to cover the operational costs of small-town police departments, left the city struggling to meet the rising cost of insurance and hazardous duty retirement through the 2003-2004 fiscal year.

"It hurt this past year real bad," said Ramey.

A recently-passed Senate bill will restore these funds in the next fiscal calendar, bringing $9,000 back to the department.

Also slated to bring in revenue to Crab Orchard is a start-up factory, ERJ Manufacturing Inc. of Ky. The factory will form metal parts for automobiles, appliances and electronics. Groundbreaking for the plant's U.S. 150 location is set for mid-June.

ERJ will bring with it revenue to fund another police officer, much needed by the city, said Ramey.

Events planned to draw visitors

Additionally, the city has planned several events throughout the summer to draw in visitors and revenue. This includes a motorcycle poker run June 12 and a July 4 Homecoming Celebration parade and car show.

"We've got a big month coming up," said Ramey. "It's going to be hopping here."

The $1,025 excess budgeted by the city will be used as a nest egg, said Ramey. "We'll hold onto that, because we'll be getting more municipal aid this year to go with it."

If the city succeeds with plans to annex land near Cedar Creek Lake and William Whitley House, the excess funds could be used to improve William Whitley Road, said Ramey. The annexation, to be voted on in November, would extend city limits along that road and north to U.S. 150.

The water department surplus, totaling $4,300, will be used to repay loans and finance upgrades. Lines that currently dead end will be looped, and fire hydrants will be added, said Ramey. A pending Rural Development grant of $14,000 for water projects also could help keep the city in the black, said Ramey.

With the addition of multiple grants this fiscal year, the budget has found a tenuous balance, said Ramey. But it could always be better, he said. "We hope it turns around."

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