City council approves $8.2M budget
The Russellville city council unanimously approved its 2008-09 fiscal year budget and increased school funding at its regular meeting Monday night.
The $8.2 million budget includes a $1.2 million appropriation to the city school system, which was allocated $978,470 last year. The school system will actually receive $671,312 this year after paying a total of $946,725 in fees and general obligation warrant payments from school bonds issued by the council in 1997, 2003, 2004 and 2007.
"It is the goal of the Russellville mayor and city council to return the school system's funding back to the 1977 resolution, which funded the school system (38.3) percent of the city's 3 percent sales tax," said District 1 Councilman Jeff Masterson. "This resolution was rescinded by the last administration but (Monday) we approve a resolution to restore funding back to the 1977 levels when and as soon as our revenues allow it."
The council also voted to give $200,000 to the school system from the 2007-08 budget. The money was allocated in response to a $200,000 30-day loan taken by the system to meet its October payroll after receiving only 75 percent of its monthly funding from the state.
The new council, which took office Nov. 4, listened to an emotional plea from Christine Tiggs, the mother of 19-year-old Cordarrell Tiggs, who was struck and killed as he was walking home Oct. 10 by a pickup truck about a mile east of Russellville on Hwy. 24. The case was initially ruled an accident by the Russellville Police Department, but it has been turned over to Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing, who has the option of presenting the case to a grand jury if there is sufficient evidence.
In front of a standing-room crowd of 50 people in the city auditorium, Tiggs read from a prepared statement that challenged the police department's initial investigation and asked for the prosecution of the driver.
"My son Cordarrell Ramon Tiggs was taken from me on Oct. 10, 2008," she said. "In the course of collecting information about his death, I am not at ease with the findings. There were many contradictions and I have so many questions that I need help in resolving.
"My goal and my quest (are) for the truth through further investigation as I don't believe there was an investigation at all. The police and DA have told me some things but (have) taken no action to help me understand the events of that night … We as a community need to send a message that there is accountability for your actions whether you are young and old, black or white, male or female, so I am requesting (the council) to assist me in getting these questions answered any way that you can."
Police Chief Chris Hargett also spoke to the council about the handling of the investigation by his department, which has requested the phone records for Cordarrell Tiggs' cell phone after allegations that his phone was found at the scene with an erased call log.
"It was investigated but she was not satisfied with our investigation," said Hargett. "I talked to the district attorney and contacted the Department of Public Safety, and they denied our request for an additional investigation.
"We have issued requests for his phone records, and this still an open investigation."
William Nale, District 2 councilman and a former Russellville police officer, promised the investigation would be handled beyond the police department.
"This will not be left to the police department," said Nale as he addressed Tiggs. "This will be handled by the district attorney's office and a grand jury investigation."
Earlier in the meeting the council re-appointed Kim Wright as city clerk and treasurer and Joe Mansell as fire chief and appointed Jessica Latham as acting director of the Foster Grandparents Program after program director Carole Jones passed away Nov. 3.
However, the council postponed the vote for the re-appointment of Hargett, who has served as police chief since 2004, until the next meeting Dec. 1.
"The reason for that is some of the councilmen are questioning some of the procedures that are being used in the organization and operation of the police department," said Mayor Troy Oliver. "They want a chance to talk to the chief and some of the other officers within the police department to see what plans they have for correcting or changing those and to see if if they can get in an agreement.
"I expect the council to vote on this at the next meeting."
In other business, the council: