ARMA — City meetings do not usually draw a large crowd in Arma.

However, Monday night over 20 people filled the seats in the councilroom for a special meeting on the 2019 budget.

According to a social media post by Councilmember Mary Lou Peace, the meeting was of special significance as a raise for the city employees was on the table, although according to Pence the money for such a raise was not readily available.

“The mayor is pushing to give the employees another 3 percent pay raise this year, as well as continue 100 percent payment of the insurance, and the majority of the council agrees with him.” Peace said in her post.

The raise was indeed the topic of much of the discussion, with disagreements about whether it should be approved and, if so, at what rate. Councilman Dick Cleland voiced his concern that the raise and the increased cost of insurance would affect other projects. Cleland said several roads in town need work.

“Are we going to give up things for the people of the city to give to the wages,” Cleland said. “We’re cutting from departments for this.”

Cleland was not alone in his concerns. Peace also called into question if the raises were necessary in 2019 considering raises were given in 2018.

“At this point in time we need to tighten our budget,” Peace said, adding she had concerns about wages already being in the “red” for this year, and the carryover impact of that on the rest of 2018.

Arma Mayor Rock Anderson said as overtime decreases in the fall and winter he believes the wages will come out of the red.

In regards to the 2019 budget, Anderson said budgets like this one are hard to pre-plan for the year ahead.

“Budgets are the kind of thing where you throw it all against a wall and see what sticks.” Anderson said.

Anderson advocated for the increase in pay, as did fellow council members Popejoy, Vail, and Kerley. Council members suggested cuts be made to the proposed city consultant, westland acres, street paving, and parks and recreation. Those cuts will total approximately $40,000.

The council moved to approve those cuts and go forward with the 3 percent raise in the budget. The budget will now move to a public hearing. The next meeting will be August 6th.