By Evan Belanger
The Decatur City Council approved more than $2.4 million in appropriations this week, cutting funding to at least 27 public-service agencies and boosting funding to four others.
The fiscal 2011 appropriations were down more than 4 percent compared to the 2010 budget, but a prior commitment to increase the city’s funding toward a downtown college campus negated the savings during the tight fiscal year.
Those hardest hit by the cuts included the Decatur Public Library, which lost $37,208, and the Community Free Clinic of Decatur-Morgan County, which lost $14,820. The appropriations also cut funding to the Morgan County Health Department by $29,640 and to the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts by $9,400.
Meanwhile, agencies receiving funding boosts included the Chamber of Commerce’s Cornerstone Partnership, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Decatur-Morgan County Entrepreneurial Center, and the Morgan County Area Transportation System.
While the council approved a total of 33 appropriations, Councilman Billy Jackson opposed funding for the Chamber of Commerce, the Decatur Beautification Board, the Princess Theatre, and the Entrepreneurial Center. During discussion, he argued the appropriations, worth a combined $220,882, would be better spent drawing down the city’s more than $1 million budget deficit for fiscal 2011.
“I don’t know that this best impacts our citizens’ interests in the way we should be doing,” he said.
He also complained many of the cuts would not have been necessary if the city had spent more wisely during the first two years of the administration.
Councilman Ronny Russell also opposed funding the Entrepreneurial Center.
While he said he supports the center’s work, he did not agree the city should stick to a previous commitment to increase its funding from $60,000 to $100,000 during fiscal 2011.
“We’ve also made commitments to others that we’re having to basically pull back on...” he said, “I believe that everyone should have a share in that.”
Initially, the council had proposed funding the center $90,000, but Councilman Roger Anders argued the council should keep the commitment it made in July.
“We knew financially where we were then, and we know where we are now,” he said.
Not included in the appropriations was $20,000 to the Carnegie Visual Arts Center — up from $4,940 in fiscal 2010. Carnegie Board President Noel King requested last month the city delay that appropriation while the Carnegie audits its financial records.
The board announced weeks ago its executive director had resigned after “accounting irregularities” were discovered. Police are investigating the matter.
Also excluded was a $4,800 appropriation to the Morgan County System of Services.
City Attorney Herman Marks said that the council will consider that funding later in the year.