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West Point predicts surplus in 2012 budget


Jason Browne



WEST POINT -- West Point''s city board unanimously approved its 2012 budget Tuesday with a fraction of last year''s drama. 


Coming off a $500,000-plus shortage in the fiscal year 2010 budget and with three newly elected board members, one member beginning his first full term and one veteran, the West Point Board of Selectmen struggled mightily with its 2011 budget. The board was forced to make a slew of cuts, which produced flip-flopping on several policies, and debated the budget until the last possible day before passing it. But in the end, it looks like they got it right. 


"Revenues are up, but we still maintained what we budgeted last year," said City Accountant Lisa Klutts following Tuesday''s meeting. "We''re not making any drastic movements up or down." 


The board passed its 2012 budget with $6.8 million in estimated expenses and a slim $12,474 surplus. But the city is solvent, and revenue trends are on pace to keep it that way. 


Mayor Scott Ross credited the board for working hard well in advance of the budget deadline. 


"Last year was pretty chaotic. This year we tried to get board members as much information as they wanted as early as we possibly could. There have been lots of meetings and questions and they all got answered prior to tonight," said Ross. 


He agreed that the young board''s inexperience with creating a budget played a role in last year''s chaos. 


"I think there''s a learning curve on everybody''s part to know what issues people are concerned with and make sure those issues were addressed," he said. "And there''s probably some recognition that the budget must be adopted and there''s plenty of time to amend it after the fact if we have to. We''ll use it as a very general guideline." 


Last year the board implemented cost-sharing on health insurance for all city employees and froze purchasing, requiring all purchases to be cleared by city hall. 


Klutts said revenue was up $80,000 for 2011, which doesn''t make a huge difference in a $6.8 million budget, but does provide some breathing room after 2010''s budget crisis. 


The city will also receive an influx of cash from the recently dissolved organization that oversaw profits from the Prairie Arts Festival, but that money is already spoken for. 


The board voted unanimously to allow Klutts to establish a bank account for the $179,000 in liquefied assets from the Prairie Arts Association. The association, founded by Lee Stafford, spent very little of the festival''s profits, paying for upgrades like work to the gazebo in Sally Kate Winters Park. But the remaining money will be paired with a $100,000 grant to restore the McClure Furniture building at the corner of Commerce Street and Broad Street to its original condition to function as the new Howlin'' Wolf museum and art gallery. 


The new location for the museum, dedicated to Clay County''s most famous native son, blues legend Chester "Howlin'' Wolf" Burnett, was suggested by the Main Street Association charrette team, which visited West Point in 2010. 


The dissolution of the Prairie Arts association won''t spell any changes for the 32-year-old festival, which is West Point''s signature annual event. The West Point/Clay County Growth Alliance will now have administrative and financial purview over the festival. 


In other business the board: 


n Approved a resolution to sell a plot of land on Industrial Access Road adjacent to the old Artex building to Southern Ionics. The chemical company has agreed to lease the Artex building from Clay County to install a manufacturing facility, which could bring "20 to 30 scientific and engineering jobs," according to the Daily Times Leader. 


The West Point board already voted to sell the land adjacent to the Artex building to Southern Ionics, but Ross said the chemical company''s lawyers likely wanted "one more step to legally effectuate the sale." 


n Amended the city''s property maintenance code to produce swifter results when property owners are noncompliant. 


The new code mandates a letter be sent to noncompliant property owners, who will then have 72 hours to mitigate the violation or request more time. If the issue is not addressed, the violation will no longer be passed to the city''s cleanup panel or planning commission for consideration, but will be referred directly to municipal court for the issuance of a citation. 


n Extended the city''s emergency declaration, which allows the city to work on private property without the owner''s permission, for another 30 days. 


Ross said the emergency declaration, which followed May''s severe storms, is mainly intended to allow the city more time to clean out ditches. 


n Informed Dr. Johnnie Rasberry that the documentation provided by his Southern Atlantic Corp. did not meet the requirements to receive monetary assistance from the city because municipalities are forbade from providing seed money for nonprofit programs or providing matching money for in-kind services. 


The city is allowed to provide matching funds for existing funded programs, but City Attorney Orlando Richmond informed Rasberry his documentation did not prove the program is currently funded or in operation.




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