Council meets under ‘new normal’ conditions

Meg Hibbert
Contributing writer

Salem City Council met under new normal conditions Monday night, with three members physically present in Council Chambers – all masked – and two on the screen attending remotely.

Photo by Meg Hibbert Members of Salem City Council and staff meet electronically Monday night via the screen behind Mayor Randy Foley, center. Councilman James Martin, left, and Vice Mayor Jane Johnson are also physically in Council Chambers, and Councilmen Bill Jones and John Saunders participating remotely.

They accepted the Salem School Division 2020-2021 budget presented from by School Board Chairman David Preston participating by remote hookup, and talked about the forthcoming balanced city budget expected to be presented by May 1. The $168.3-million 2020-2021budget is shows an increase of $3,134 over the current budget.
City Manager Jay Taliaferro pointed out the preliminary budget “had revenues we had projected that weren’t realistic.” He asked Council for more time to collect better data, and members agreed. The city manager said a work session would be scheduled the first meeting of June, with a second reading at the next meeting.
The Salem School Division budget of $48.6 million including more than $1 million in the cafeteria fund could change after the General Assembly convenes later this month, Chairman Preston noted. It includes a 2 percent raise for employees effective July, coming from state funding.

Both Preston and Superintendent Dr. Alan Siebert thanked council and staff for longstanding support of the schools.
Council also:
•Approved a deadline extension to pay real estate and property taxes, until June 30, without penalties.
•Approved the same deadline extension for utility payments. “We will not cut anybody off,” Taliaferro promised. The action was taken to help citizens and businesses in this tough economic time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he explained
•Approved quarantine and return to work policies for employees affected by the virus.
•Approved a request to appropriate supplemental Children’s Services Act revenue to provide services for at-risk youth.
It was the first time Salem City Council met with remote participation. One of the first actions was to approve two separate actions to allow Jones and Saunders to allow remote their remote participation, for medical reasons due to the pandemic. Council adopted that ordinance in March.
The remote hookups were coordinated by Communications Director Mike Stevens, remotely, and Communications Specialist Ruhland in person. At the close of the 35-minute meeting, Mayor Foley thanked all for their participation and added, “We have some kinks. I’m sure we’ll get all the bugs worked out.”

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