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City projects revenues will grow in 2004

By By BILL CRIST Publisher
According to Brewton Mayor Ted Jennings, the next fiscal year could be one of the best the city has seen since before the Big Kmart store closed here in November 2000.
According to figures Jennings used as he presented the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2003/2004, city revenues peaked during the 1999/2000 year at approximately $3.22 million. During the current fiscal year, he said the city has already collected $3.122 million with about one month left in the year.
That represents a 2.16 percent increase over last year's revenue.
In total, the city is projecting a revenue increase of $91,169, according to the proposed budget. Total income is forecast to be $3,947,151.
The budget has a matching increase in spending. Jennings told the council that it is state law that the city operate under a balanced budget and that any changes to the proposed budget must result a balanced version.
According to Jennings, the greatest increases in city expenditures relate to salaries, retirement and increased health insurance costs. All city employees will receive a 2.5 percent pay increase. Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the city's health insurance provider, is expected to raise premiums by 19 percent in the coming year and there is a 2.9 percent increase in state retirement.
Jennings pointed out that the city has a three cent sales tax that it collects locally, and that one cent of that tax goes to the Brewton City Schools.
One major change on the budget this year is that Dogwood Hills Golf Course was moved to a self-sustaining position, operating similarly to the airport.
Most departments will see an increase in funding. The police department's budget is $1.35 million, an increase of $25,560 over last year. The fire dept. will operate on a budget of $602,619, an increase of $13,541 over last year.
Community recreation is the department with the largest increase, over $75,000. The major part of that, Jennings said, is moving Gary Hill from the Dogwood Hills portion to the community recreation department, which more accurately reflects his job description.
During his presentation, Jennings discussed several of the major projects the city has undertaken in the past year, and spoke of the progress Brewton has made in several areas.
The budget is a never ending process, he said, with meetings taking place all year. After meeting with the department heads and learning about each department's plans, the financial committee works on a budget that takes into account those needs as well as projected revenues. The budget is presented at a workshop of the council before its public presentation.
The final budget will be voted on at the council's next meeting, on Sept. 23.
Councilman Mervin Huff asked that the council reconsider its decision to sell 80.8 acres of city land to Richard McConaughey for $127,000. Huff said he had talked to people and that he felt the bid was too low.
Councilman Dennis Dunaway seconded the motion, but he said he was doing so because of complaints from residents of Dogwood Lane who said they were unaware that one of the contingencies of the sale was access to the property through the street.
The motion to rescind the action failed 2-3. Huff and Dunaway voted for the motion, while councilmen Frank Cotten, Cary Barton and Walter (Jake) Lewis voted no.
On Oct. 14, there will be a public hearing on an application for a new liquor license. The owners of Johnny D's Sports Bar and Grill, located in Suite 414 at 1023 Douglas Avenue (the old Scores Sportsbar location) have applied for the license.
The council voted to introduce an amendment to the animal control ordinance that will add a penalty to the existing ordinance. If passed, the ordinance will result in fines and/or jail time for violations of the city's existing ordinance.
In other business the council;