Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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June 12, 2014

Commission approves first reading of budget

ASHLAND — The Ashland Board of City Commissioners on Thursday approved first reading of the city’s budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

According to city officials, the spending plan, which takes effect July 1, is substantially the same as the one under which the city is currently operating, with a few notable exceptions.

One of those is a $3.5 million allotment in the utility fund for capital improvements, Finance Director Tony Grubb said. The money will be used for upgrades to the utility system, which officials hope will enable the city to avoid any repeats of situations like the water crisis of this past winter, he said.

“We think this will get our system up to speed and save us money on repairs down the road,” Grubb said.

The budget also includes a 3 percent across-the-the-board salary increase for city employees, which will cost the city about $330,000 over the course of the fiscal year.  Last month, the commission approved a 3 percent raise for city workers for the balance of the current fiscal year, retroactive to April 1.

The Ashland Police Department’s $5.3 million budget for the coming fiscal year includes a $74,000 earmark to equip all of its officers with tasers, Grubb said. That sum is for the purchase of the necessary equipment and for training, he said.

Grubb said city leaders believe providing officers with tasers could potentially save the city money on worker’s compensation paid to officers who suffer injuries attempting to restrain suspects who become physically aggressive. And, giving officers an additional means of employing less-than-lethal force could potentially allow the city to avoid a wrongful-death lawsuit, he said.

The fire department’s $5.8 million budget includes funds for a new Jaws of Life unit, something the department hasn’t had in years, Grubb said.

The budget also sets aside $823,000 for street paving and sidewalk work, Grubb said.

The general fund budget of $22.9 million is only half a percentage point different than the current year’s, according to Grubb.

“It’s a great budget. We’ve done a lot with the money we’ve been entrusted to take care of,” Commissioner Larry Brown.

“There’s never been a perfect budget,” Commissioner Kevin Gunderson said. “And this one isn’t absolutely perfect, but it’s very good.”

The budget ordinance still requires a second reading, which is expected to take place at the commission’s next regular meeting June 26.

In a related matter, the commission approved first reading of an ordinance setting the city’s regulatory license fee for the sale of alcoholic beverages at 4 percent, which is the same as it is currently. Second reading of that measure also will likely take place at the next meeting.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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