Sorrento council agrees to consider budget revisions

A proposed ordinance amending the town’s 2013-14 operating budget sparked a running dispute between Mayor Mike Lambert and Councilman Randy Anny before the Town Council agreed Tuesday night to consider the changes later this month.

The dispute involved the proposed allocation for the Police Department, which Anny said had been cut in previous years, when the city was in a financial squeeze. He said the Police Department was promised money for pay raises when its finances were in better shape.

The proposed amendment discussed Tuesday would shift funding among several projects, increase the town’s projected revenue by about $11,000 and increase expenditures by about $5,550, said accountant Jacob Waguespack, of Faulk & Winkler LLC.

Waguespack said the amendment includes moving about $5,000 from payroll to a new budget line item providing funds for conventions and training and about $7,500 for engineering projects.

The proposed amendment also would reduce the town’s budgeted attorney fees from $30,000 annually to $24,000, Waguespack said. In addition, he said, $16,000 previously budgeted for the town’s contracted grass-cutting services would be spent instead on road maintenance repairs and drainage maintenance.

When Waguespack said there would be no change to the Police Department’s budget, it sparked a heated exchange between Lambert and Anny that lasted for much of the remainder of the meeting.

Anny said Police Chief Earl Theriot, who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, needed to be present to discuss any proposed budget amendments because Theriot’s department had been greatly affected by budget cuts for the past several years.

The previous Town Council administration, in which Anny had served, made several last-minute adjustments just before the end of the fiscal year in June that Anny said would save the town about $77,000.

Those savings included reducing the police force from six officers to five officers and eliminating pay raises for all Police Department personnel, Anny said Tuesday.

“They took the cut so we could get the town back on its feet,” said Anny, who added the town had only about $30,000 in its checkbook while the budget was being prepared in the spring.

Once the town was in better financial shape, “That money was supposed to be transferred, some of it, back to (Theriot) so that he could give his officers some pay raises,” Anny said.

Anny then said he had spoken with Theriot earlier Tuesday and that the police chief had asked him to postpone acting on the issue until the Town Council’s next meeting on Sept. 17.

Ultimately, Councilwoman Patti Poche won approval of a motion allowing the council to consider the proposed budget changes.

The public hearing on the proposed budget amendment is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 17 in Town Hall.