Councilmen-elect haven’t received budget invite

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

FRANKLIN—Despite a request by Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson to have incoming councilmen’s input on the fiscal 2009 budget, the councilmen-elect have not been invited to participate in a budget work session next week.

The session is set for Monday evening prior to the next council meeting.

Councilmen-elect Barry Cheatham and Benny Burgess, who will represent Wards 1 and 2, respectively, beginning July 1, said they had not heard from city officials about participating since Johnson made her request at a May 12 meeting.

“A decision hasn’t been made yet,” Franklin Mayor Jim Councill said Monday.

At the May meeting, following a public hearing on the 2008-09 budget, council members decided to have a work session to review the budget after citizens raised various concerns.

Johnson asked that the two incoming members be allowed to participate, because both are certified public accountants who could lend their expertise to the discussions.

City Attorney Taylor Williams immediately noted that he wasn’t sure it was legal for the two men to participate, saying, “Their participation would only be by presence and listening, not by having input by voting.”

Johnson responded that she hadn’t said anything about Burgess and Cheatham voting.

It was decided that Williams would do more research on the legalities of the issue.

Williams said Tuesday that it would be the mayor’s privilege to invite the men to take part in the discussions. Councill presides at City Council meetings.

Williams reaffirmed that Burgess and Cheatham cannot vote, because they will not be sworn in until the June 23 meeting and won’t officially take office until July 1. They will participate in their first council meeting July 14.

Taylor noted that after the council addresses citizens’ budget concerns during the work session, the “idea is to vote on the budget Monday night, so the school board can have time to adopt its budget.

“By state statute, we have to adopt a budget by July 1,” he said. “It can always be amended later, and it always is.”

Both Cheatham and Burgess said they will attend the work session Monday, and both

still feel that they may be asked that evening for some input.

“They may not feel it’s necessary to invite me ahead of time,” said Burgess. “It’s up to them; they know what’s out there.”

He also said he thinks the proposed budget reflects “some conflicting goals,” and believes he and Cheatham could at least bring up some areas council members could consider when setting the budget.

Cheatham said he hoped they could participate as well.

“I think we can help some,” he said, adding that he would like to find out what the rationale is behind some of the budget items.

“We’ll wait and see what they decide,” he said.

Johnson had not returned calls by press time on Tuesday.

The work session is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Monday in City Council Chambers in City Hall.