City discusses spending

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 28, 2003

The Andalusia City Council is confident that by being wiser with its spending, the city budget will continue to remain strong well into the future.

Councilman Harry Hinson, during the council's regular meeting Tuesday, brought up the issue of the city's spending, adding that he is aware that some people have been critical of the city's spending in the past, including on items such as construction on the former East Three Notch Elementary School building, which will be Andalusia's new city hall.

"There has been public knowledge of what we spend, but a big part of (what the city spends on various projects) has been grants," said Hinson. "Many times a project costs us nothing and in other cases we spend maybe 15 or 20 percent on the dollar. What the public does not know is how this (current) administration is working on reducing many areas of city government (spending) and not losing any services in doing it."

One of those items that have seen reductions, Hinson said, is attorney fees.

"Over the last four years attorney fees averaged between $135,000 and $139,000 per year, but this administration has cut that attorney's fee to an average of $90,276 for a reduction of $44,863 a year in attorney fees," said Hinson. "There is a reason for that. We have an attorney as our mayor (in Earl Johnson) and if (City Clerk) Pam (Steele) needs legal advice, she can call the mayor and the clock doesn't start ticking on the money."

Hinson said in the two and a half years of the current administration, the city has not had a lawsuit filed against it, although the administration did inherit two suits when it came into office.

"We will probably continue to reduce attorney fees in the future," said Hinson.

Liability insurance is another item which Hinson said the council has taken a hard look at.

"When this administration began its term of office, I became concerned about the increase in liability insurance, and premiums we were paying and the fact that we were not putting much emphasis on saving," said Hinson. "I began to work on that area to see if we could improve that. The average for the last three years before we came into office, our liability insurance averaged $139,104 per year. During our administration, we are averaging $120,000. This year our liability insurance is down to $120,813. That's a difference of $18,291. In addition to that, we have an old system of paying out bonuses that were supposed to be reducing our workman's compensation premiums, but were doing very little to accomplish that."

Hinson said the current administration set up a system of continuing to give its employees bonuses, but is doing more to make sure it is reducing workman's compensation premiums.

"This year, we have paid out about $32,000 to our employees and we evenly distributed that amount of money," said Hinson. 'This has proven successful for us, and we only have four employees that did not qualify under one of the sections, and they can qualify under three different sections. If they qualify for all three sections, they receive a bonus of $250 per year. If they don't qualify under the first section, then they can under the second section."

He said in terms of the attorney fees and liability insurance premiums, the current administration has saved the City of Andalusia over $70,000.

Johnson added that since the current administration took office, it has paid for $2.8 million in projects in the city, and approximately 2.4 million of that was in grant money.

"There are other areas that I am looking at as mayor to implement savings, and one of those areas is purchasing," said Johnson. "We have an (outdated) purchasing process in this city and we are going to change it in the near future where we will go to a centralized purchasing and warehousing operation."

He said items that fall under the new system might include office products, such as copy paper.

"Those savings (resulting from the new purchasing and warehousing system) could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in saving to the city over a period of time," said Johnson. "Those are things you don't know until you get in office and find out about it."

Johnson also noted that the current administration has been able to ensure significant savings in items such as health insurance.

"We are spending some money, but I think we are getting an awful big bang for the buck," said Johnson. "We are going to continue to look at every opportunity to save money for the city and to streamline and improve services we provide to our citizens."