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City Council Report–MEDC Leaders Respond to Budget Cut & Comments

December 19th, 2008 by

The most notable portion of Thursday night’s City Council meeting was the response made by MEDC president Benji Ryburn and director Truman Hamilton.

Both men were unavailable to attend Tuesday’s meeting where council member Sherrie Gillespie made the motion to reduce the MEDC’s operating budget by $25,000, and mentioned questions that she had about the financial situation, and use of the Workforce Training Center.  Her motion received a second, and was passed by the council with a 5-2-1 vote.

Ryburn’s comments were meant to address those questions, which he had tried to answer before, about the WTC being self-sufficient.  “It probably won’t be self-sufficient.”  The building is owned by the Monticello School System, and is leased by the MEDC, who in turn leases parts of it to the school, and other organizations..

Ryburn continued to explain that UAM now offers many classes at their McGehee and Crossett campuses, that have (or may have been) been offered at the center.  He mentioned their classes in health care, nursing, computer, and welding.  Another factor that affects the WTC is the funding that is no longer supplied by the W.A.G.E. program.

Another item he addressed was the MEDC’s efforts to assist local businesses, including their revolving loan program, which offers low interest loans, and the ongoing attempts to publicize the spec. building through the state’s economic development department, among other sources. 

Also noted was the recent questionnaire that was sent out by the Reynolds Foundation, which was completed by MEDC director Truman Hamilton, which led to a visit and further possible consideration by the foundation toward the possibly of receiving an $8 million dollar community based building.

A council member asked about “cutting our losses” with the WTC building,

Hamilton told the chamber that Mr. Ware and Ms. Rogers are working on a case by case basis for using the center to meet students needs.  Hamilton mentioned the WTC’s use for adult ed. and the G.E.D. program, saying, “some can’t pay for books, transportation, and childcare, and I’m not going to abandon the people that need our help.”

Mrs. Gillespie told Mr. Ryburn, “the people before you said it would be self-sufficient.”  He responded, “I’ve never said it would be self sufficient,”, followed by Hamilton’s agreement, “with the people we’re trying to serve , it won’t be.”  It was then noted that the building is regularly used for computer and CNA classes.

In regards to the budget, Hamilton pointed out that the MEDC is operating with $121,000 less than his predecessor worked with.

 —————–

Other council business discussed the possibility of implementing the “place based code” program, a planning commission,  the upcoming trip to Washington D.C. by the MEDC and “20 for the future” members.

The chamber of commerce’s report included a list of all of the December activities.

The council did not include a “war chest” funding amount in the upcoming year’s budget, but did agree that any excess funds out of the 2009 budget would go into that fund, up to $100,000.

The current month’s sales tax receipts are up $9,300 compared to last year, and the yearly total is up by $124,840

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