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City freezes budget appropriations

When the City of Troy passed its 2011 budget on Tuesday, it added no new appropriations and increased funding to only one agency – an intentional response to what the mayor described as a conservative budget approach to projected revenue shortfalls.

“We didn’t add any new revenues,” Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said Thursday. “… And there are several agencies that we have given appropriations to that had asked for increases in funding and I could not see how we could, at this point, do that.”

Appropriations, he said, “are something I’m going to be studying very hard in the next 12 months.”

Among the agencies that did not receive funding was the Pike Animal Shelter Coalition, which was seeking nearly $80,000 in operating funds for a new animal shelter. The grassroots coalition has been working to raise funds for the construction of a modern, state-of-the-art shelter for the city, and volunteers had asked the city to partner with the group in operating the shelter, which the city is required by law to provide to citizens.

District 3 Councilman Jason Reeves said he thought the $80,000 request for operating expenses “definitely seems to me to be too much money,” but he hoped the city would be able to work with the shelter coalition to reach a compromise at some point.

“When we decide to build a new public works facility, we’re going to have to sell the old public works facility,” he said. “At that point, we’re going to have to find a home for the animal shelter (the city pound is currently at the public works building) so I hope we can find a common ground with the folks working on this.”

Reeves said the city must have an animal shelter and he would like to find a way for the city and the shelter coalition to work together on both the facility and the operating expenses of the facility. Currently, the shelter coalition has secured land on Henderson Highway for a facility and is working on grant funding for a portion of the construction costs.

“I think we need to sit down and try to talk about it,” Reeves said. “We’re going to have to look at down the road coming up with a facility and working together.

One agency which did receive an increase in funding is the Pike County EMA. “(Director Jeanna Barnes) had asked for something like $30,000 in funding, but we approved $10,000,” Lunsford said. “It is a small increase.”

According to budget figures, the city allocated $3,792 to the EMA in FY10.

Ultimately, Lunsford said, the city’s role in providing appropriations to community agencies may come under scrutiny in future budget reviews.

“I had several cuts of agencies in my first draft of the budget, and the council members asked for level funding,” he said. “I went back and put them in there because I knew we would have to pull from surplus next year.”

But, in the future, “we’re going to have to consider what is the primary responsibility of the operations of the city: things like garbage pick up, fire, police, recreation.”

The agencies funded through appropriations, including volunteer groups such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, all provide an important service to the community, he said. “Every one of the agencies does a great job, but their functions are not the charge of what the city funds. They’ve enjoyed the appropriations over the last few years because the revenue stream over expenses has allowed us to fund them.”

In fiscal year 2011, however, the city is projecting a $600,000 shortfall in revenue, Lunsford said.

“It’s always going to be my recommendation that we fund first those things that are our direct charge: police, fire, recreation, city services.”