Before being able to get into the financial aspects of the coming year's budget, Harlem council members want to reorganize the city.
At a Dec. 18 work session, Mayor John Bentley presented - as part of his 2002 budget - an organizational chart he said he hopes will give council the chance do more policy-making and less administrating.
"The goal is to run the city like a business," Bentley said.
The council also discussed new pay scales and job descriptions. The council must approve the budget by Jan. 1.
Though nothing was passed, the first order of business was the creation of a new position. Under the proposed chart, City Clerk Jean Dove would take the job of city administrator.
Her responsibilities would include overseeing the day to day operations of all departments - including the police and fire department. She would then report to the council any problems or suggestions. With the extra responsibility will come more money. If the change is approved, her salary will go from $31,500 to $39,226.
"Jean has done this job for years," Bentley said. "She just hasn't had the authority."
Council members will take a less hands-on approach with departments. Mayor Pro-Tem Robin Root could be most affected by this change. She currently oversees the police, fire, and sewer and streets department.
"We're looking to set up the way the county has it," Bentley said. "The commissioners don't go and get involved with the actual administration of the city. That isn't our role."
Root and the other council members were accepting of the change and felt Dove was the right person for the job.
"We would be a decision-making panel," Root said. "That gives us the opportunity to get involved with the Chamber of Commerce and tourists groups."
Bentley said another benefit is the elimination of potential conflicts of interest.
Because Root has ties to the fire department and council member Randall Hill is a volunteer firefighter, anything brought to council from the department might cause problems.
"If something were to have to come up before council, that would disqualify two of your council members," Bentley said.
The only question Root had was whether, under the new chart, council would fall under the mayor or remain an equal.
"We're on the same level but it comes in through me," Bentley said. "It puts me in as (Jean's) boss."
Next in the budget-setting process is Thursday's meeting in which department heads will be given about 30 minutes to present their budget requests. Bentley warns that although the council will consider all requests, 2002 numbers will mirror those of 2001.
"My goal is to keep the budget at the same level it was last year," he said. "We're not going to increase our budget spending."
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