We don't let sleeping dogs lie around here, at least not anymore.
There have been rumors about Bessemer's financial situation. The rumors weren't helped any by the former mayor's refusal to release financial information and his refusal to provide an audit to the council.
The council today unanimously passed a motion to allow funds to be transferred from various accounts into the general fund by the mayor, so that payroll can be met.
But payroll is not the only concern, according to mayor Ken Gulley. There are vendors whose bills are coming due and other obligations.
Obligations due on November 10 total $972,711, and there is less than that amount in the general fund account.
And then on Friday payroll taxes are due. Soon after that, Blue Cross Blue Shield will have their hand out. In all $1, 651, 606.00 is needed by November 20.
The mayor said Bessemer is in a "dire situation" and that he believes some of this was "done on purpose" by the former mayor. Ed May should have had some type of grasp on city finances, yet he hired around two dozen employees since the election in August and entered the city into several contracts within the last 2 weeks, all of which are costing the city additional money and all of which will be assessed and adjusted.
The immediate solution to the crisis is to transfer the funds as they are doing, but this is only a stop gap measure. City attorney Shan Paden said that there will have to be a reduction in work force at some point (possibly January).
After the motion to authorize fund transfers was passed, Mayor Gulley said he wanted to speak on why the motion was adopted as a matter of record. He said we will "have some challenging days ahead" and that they "will have to do some reduction in staff."
He put out an appeal to the council to work together and to the citizens to work with the administration and with the business community to work with them to get this city back on track.
Mayor Gulley, you have the citizens behind you and the business community as well.
Fortunately the new council also understand the gravity of the situation. Council president Jesse Matthews said the previous council had a "inkling" of the days to come, and that they had been "left as blind in the dark for so long."
New council member Ron Marshall said he is looking forward to a cooperative relationship with the mayor, and other council members seemed ready to move forward as well.
All that being said, the council and the mayor are optimistic that they can bring us out of this crisis. Sales tax and property taxes should provide a needed boost as the year ends, although some of that money will be needed for other known expenses that arise this time of year as well.
I predict that by mid 2011 Bessemer will have ironed out these misgivings and be back on the track that Gulley is suggesting we need to be on.
I guess the only question remaining will be...well, we don't know if any laws were broken so those things will just have to wait.
If Bessemer is in such dire straits I guess I can play my favorite Dire Straits song, Sultans of Swing, live version.